Club Tennis Guru Tharin Named USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month
In her tenure as the boys and girls tennis coach at Palm Harbor University High School over the last 10 years, Irene Tharin's teams have never lost more than three matches in a season. For this reason you would think her passion lies in the highly-competitive player development realm, but you would be wrong.
Tharin receives a modest stipend for coaching tennis, and no compensation for the after-school tennis program she oversees at Palm Harbor which has come to be known as the PHU Tennis Club/USTA Jr. Team Tennis Camp. Whatever their level, students either compete in the local USTA Jr. Team Tennis league, or attend the camp during the spring and fall -- or both.
"I sponsor the after-school tennis program which is about 10 years old, and runs four days a week for two hours, and averages about 50 players each fall season," Tharin says. "All students must be USTA members to participate, and I take care of announcements, registration, awards, shirts, special events, parties, and act as the liaison between the school and the staff who run the camp, and the local USTA Jr. Team Tennis league."
While the elite players compete on the high school team, players that might otherwise be cut get the opportunity to hone their games on the club tennis team, in the camp and Jr. Team Tennis league, and to face a variety of competition. The camp is open to all area high school players, not just those from Palm Harbor.
"We have has as many as six different high schools represented at our camp at a time," Tharin says. "The camp serves as a place for players who are not on the top varsity teams at their high schools to play."
"Club tennis," already well-established at Florida colleges and universities through the USTA "Tennis on Campus" series of tournaments for college clubs, is also catching on at K-12 schools in Florida. Club tennis focuses on social networking, exercise, fun and team camaraderie more than cut-throat play, and helps students maintain active and healthy lifestyles.
"To me, high school tennis clubs are the future of tennis," Tharin says. "These are the players who are close to being adults and are most likely to play tennis as adults in college or in the community. This club gives students a good group with whom to belong and a great activity that promotes health."
With over 20 years volunteering in tennis, Tharin also has a say as a volunteer member of the USTA Florida Recreational Tennis Council, where she promotes the link between school tennis clubs and Jr. Team tennis. Her activism for the sport came to the attention of the USTA national body, which in 2011 named her one of 18 finalists out of 3,300 coaches considered for the USTA national Starfish Award, which honors outstanding high school coaches who implement a no-cut policy for their teams.
"I was pretty shocked," Tharin told the Tampa Bay Times. "We all just go about our jobs and don't think about awards or anything like that. But, it's very nice to be recognized."
USTA Florida is also proud to recognize Irene Tharin as the January 2011 Volunteer of the Month for her dedication to school tennis, as well as her support of other community and after-school programs keeping children active.
Husband: Robert M. Tharin, Jr.; son: Jonathan Tharin (wife Concepcion); daughter: Antoinia (Toni) Harvey (husband Adam); granddaughter: Julieta Tharin
My earliest tennis memory was
..."at 15 years old playing all summer at the two city courts while learning to play. The winner stayed on the court and the people who lost moved off and got in line to play again. I was highly competitive and wanted to stay on and play, so I learned to play well in less than a year. I tried out for the high school team that year and played No. 2 and then No. 1 the next two years. I absolutely loved the sport in high school and it has been that way since then."
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be
..."Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert. Realistically speaking: [USTA Florida Leagues Coordinator] Jodi Manning, [USTA Florida Associate Executive Director] Andy McFarland, and [USTA Florida Volunteer Development & Meetings Manager] Lynne Salus...wouldn't that be fun!"
When I am not playing tennis I am
..."on the court with kids who are playing tennis. When I am away from the courts I am the big cheese of the "sandwich" generation caring for my elderly parents and in-laws, and helping my adult children survive life."
Best ever tennis memory
..."is watching Chris Evert play Billie Jean King for the first time ever in St. Petersburg at a Virginia Slims tournament. And then 25 years later seeing all of the "legends" from the Virginia Slims play at Saddlebrook twice. Those were wonderful times!"
I like to volunteer in tennis because
..."I want young players to love the game and be able to enjoy it for the rest of their lives. Volunteering for USTA Florida has been a joy...a big fat happy non-Greek part of my family. I appreciate the opportunities I have had while volunteering and the relationships that have grown through the years! The quality of the USTA Florida staff has been the reason there is longevity in the volunteer core."
UF Players, Veterans, 14-year-olds Feature at USTA Pro Circuit Innisbrook
A mix of Grand Slam veterans, up-and-coming local 14-year-olds, new and veteran University of Florida women's players will make for a competitive field for the 2012 Ace Sports Group Tennis Classic, a $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event at the Innisbrook Resort in Innisbrook, Fla., on Jan. 8-15, 2012.
It is the first stop of the year in the United States for women's professional tennis, and admission is free for spectators.
Grand Slam veteran Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania will headline the 32-player main draw field. Gallovits-Hall has competed in 22 Grand Slam events, and won WTA tournament titles in 2010 and 2011.
The event will also feature last year's finalist Jessica Pegula, former Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson, reigning US Open junior champion Grace Min, American hope Lauren Davis, and University of Florida players Danielle Collins, Allie Will, Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather. Local 14-year-olds Rachel Rohrabacher and Star Makarome will also make their debuts on the USTA Pro Circuit.
A qualifying tournament Jan. 8-9, 2012, will determine the additional spots in the main draw, and wildcards will also be announced. A USTA Tennis Block Party will also take place on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., immediately before the singles semifinals.
Last year more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in U.S. cities nationwide on the USTA Pro Circuit. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki, James Blake, Justine Henin, Andy Murray and Sam Querrey are among today's top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.
The Tampa-based Ace Sports Group, Inc., is the event promoter. Event information may be found at www.acesportsgroup.com