USTA Southern Awarded Section of the Year

Ron Cioffi | December 16, 2020

USTA Southern received the Racquet Sports Industry magazine’s 2020 USTA Section of the Year, RSI announced today. The annual awards are called the Champions of Tennis by the industry-leading publication.


Two other awards went to Southerners. USTA Southern Secretary Marcy Hirshberg was named Adaptive Tennis Champion of the Year. The Asheville (NC) Tennis Association was named Community Tennis Association of the Year.


USTA Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer Michael Dowse was named Person of the Year. The magazine cited his work leading a successful US Open, dealing with COVID-19, involvement in forming Tennis Industry United and many other accomplishments.

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Complete stories on all award winners are available in the magazine’s January 2021 issue. The following stories are used by permission.


USTA Section of the Year

In April, the USTA Southern Section's response to COVID-19 was swift and effective. The board voted to fund a new initiative, Southern Cares, to support those affected by the pandemic, awarding $811,009 to 920 recipients in the section, including teaching pros, facilities, NJTLs, CTAs, tournament directors and local league coordinators. 


“Our board, with the support of section and state volunteers and staff, has worked hard to support our tennis professionals and family,” says USTA Southern President and CEO Bonnie Vandegrift. “Additionally, we’ve raised the bar with a number of digital programs and assets to connect with the Southern tennis community.” 


The section organized a two-week virtual Community Tennis Development Workshop; conducted three Junior Tournament Town Halls; hosted virtual happy hours to connect volunteers and staff with high-profile guests; helped develop an app allowing safe tournament check-in; and sent out 1,700 racquets for starter programs. 


Comprised of nine states, Southern is the USTA’s largest section, recently surpassing 25 percent of the USTA’s total membership. It’s also RSI’s 2020 USTA Section of the Year, the third time it’s held this honor (2003 and 2010).


Adaptive Champion of the Year

The growth and popularity of adaptive tennis programs is helping participants as well as the sport itself, and one of the most dedicated and tireless supporters of these initiatives is Marcy Hirshberg, vice chair of the USTA’s National Adaptive Tennis Committee.


Over the past few years, Hirshberg has worked to garner resources for adaptive programs throughout the South, and the beneficiaries of such efforts include the Wounded Warrior Tennis Program, the Laredo Tennis Program, Abilities Tennis, Special Olympics, and Special Pops Tennis (a nationally recognized leader in adaptive tennis). Hirshberg also serves on numerous boards and committees, including USTA Southern, USTA Georgia and the Georgia Professional Tennis Association. 


“Marcy has committed much of her time, energy and resources to advancing the visibility of adaptive tennis throughout the U.S.,” says Darren Potkey, executive director of USTA Georgia. 


And for 2020, she is Racquet Sports Industry's Adaptive Tennis Champion. 


“It’s exciting to see the growth in adaptive programs and to know how much more we can accomplish,” Hirshberg says. “The USTA is very supportive of these programs, which makes it easier to grow them.”


Community Tennis Association of the Year

Since its founding in 1961, the Asheville Tennis Association has strived to be “one voice for Asheville tennis” by providing a culture that welcomes players of all ages and ability levels. The ATA offers a wide breadth of tennis programs and events, and advocates for the construction and improvement of public facilities. And its success is why the ATA is RSI's Community Tennis Association of the Year.


“We are proud of introducing the sport to many through our efforts of recruiting and leading volunteers at two Fed Cup ties, conducting ACEing Autism and Special Olympics clinics, and especially our Try Tennis Kit initiative during 2020,” says ATA President Jeff Joyce. 


The ATA provided Try Tennis Kits to 75 underserved families so that they could have fun playing driveway tennis during the pandemic. 


Continuing ATA initiatives include free and low-cost clinics for youth, affordable adult clinics, Sunday match play for middle school kids, adult tennis socials and online tennis ladders.

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