Belated Re-Cap of USTA Florida’s 59th Annual Meeting

September 23, 2009 11:09 AM

USTA Florida is thrilled to announce its first continuous online blog written by T. A. Niles. Formerly a Jr. Team Tennis coordinator in the early 90’s for USTA Florida, T. A. has returned recently to the USTA Florida spotlight as a volunteer, a USTA school tennis clinician and feature writer for tennis at T. A. has also done freelance writing and photography for other organizations and publications, including the Lee County Community Tennis Association, USTA Florida, First Serve, and Tennis View Magazine.  T. A. is a USPTA tennis pro, a USTA League Tennis player, as well as a top-ten and top-fifty competitor in USTA Florida and USTA National Men’s 45s respectively. In December 2008, he was awarded the USTA Florida Media Excellence Award at the section’s 59th Annual Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Weekend.


Belated Re-Cap of USTA Florida’s 59th Annual Meeting

I started this blog shortly after returning from USTA Florida’s 59th Annual Meeting, but I’m spending many more hours on court than on keyboard these days. In any event, if you love tennis and weren’t at the Annual Meeting, you might want to think about working towards being there next year.

As far as USTA Florida membership is concerned, growth is good, and that is what USTA membership has done in Florida for a number of years. However, during the Annual Meeting MJ and I attended in Clearwater Beach in early December, it was obvious to me that USTA Florida has grown in other ways as well. I have discerned inklings of this maturity since my return to the Florida tennis community in 2007, but the “you don’t say” moment that exemplified USTA Florida’s tremendous growth as an organization didn’t occur for me until this past weekend.

Given the context of my affiliation with the Florida Tennis Association in the early 1990s, I experienced shock, though mild and pleasant, when Executive Director Doug Booth presented the Outstanding Diversity Achievement award to Jason Freed - a representative of Florida’s chapter of the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA). I sat there thinking of my previous perception of the organization (I’ll say “conservative” as an understatement), and saying “Wow! USTA FL just presented an award to a Gay and Lesbian organization!”

That was but one of the poignant moments that peppered my Annual Meeting experience. A few presentations prior, Brittany Barrett accepted the Jimmy Gantt Memorial Award, presented to the junior player who maintains her/his competitive spirit despite physical impairment or injury, and who demonstrates sportsmanship and upstanding character. Few eyes in the vast room of volunteers and staff were dry as Brittany’s own tears told the story of her trials and triumph. Obviously still pained by the loss of unaided mobility, Brittany has embraced the challenge of wheelchair tennis, and has committed herself to appearing in the 2012 Olympic games. I will be watching for her on TV.

In addition to the presentation of the Diversity Achievement award, more evidence that USTA Florida is maturing as an organization and spreading its wings, was its fundraising partnership with the Climb for Cancer Foundation. Proceeds from silent and live auctions, as well as from the Pro-Am event featuring ATP pros such as John Isner and Jesse Levine, were shared between the Climb for Cancer Foundation and the USTA Florida Section Foundation, the association’s charitable arm.

My one moment of squeamish embarrassment came during the live auction when none of the meeting attendees was able offer up the opening bid of $2,000.00 on the Roger Federer or the Justine Henin autographed racquets. And, despite the Florida Gators’ spanking of the Alabama Crimson Tide that same day (sorry Doug), we weren’t able to raise the starting bids for the Tim Tebow autographed football and other Gator gear either. Yes, it’s a tough economy.

There was a one-of-a-kind moment that you had to be there to appreciate, one that, if you were not there, you may never have the good fortune to witness. The Gladstone family (Andy, Rita, Mira & Paul) was awarded the prestigious “Tennis Family of the Year” distinction, and after Rita and the kids gave their short acceptance speeches, Andy proceeded to deliver a soliloquy of unparalleled depth, breadth, and, yes, length. According to MJ, it was the equivalent of an epic, three-set battle between two tireless moon-ballers.

There were other happenings that I’m glad I was there to see. Doug Booth was honored for his 20 years as USTA Florida’s Executive Director, and the slideshow was priceless (have you ever seen Doug in tube socks?). Personally, I think the theme song of the slideshow, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” nailed Doug right on. And of course, Doug never claimed to be anything but a country boy. If we had such a country boy running the country, we might be in better shape today.

Other moments of significance include the passing of the torch of president from Celia Rehm to Donn Davis, and the announcement that, due to the efforts spearheaded by Linda Curtis, the “Play Tennis” license plate would be available in December 2008. We registered both cars yesterday and will be sporting those new plates as soon as they arrive in the mail. Unfortunately, we will have to wait 5-6 weeks before they arrive.

As always, the Annual Meeting offered the opportunity for tennis lovers who volunteer across the state to come together and rejuvenate for the upcoming year. It is a genuine boost to mingle with those who love the game as much as you do, to hear of the incredible efforts of individuals who are supposed to be retired but work harder than when they were paid. It was another opportunity to give thanks to the USTA Florida staff and to all who make Florida one of the best places to live if you are a lover of the game.

I wish I had time and energy to describe all of the events and activities, but unfortunately I don’t. You’ll just have to do some volunteer work and get invited to next year’s meeting. Trust me; it’s worth it from any perspective.

Game, set, match.


· Nov. 21, 2008 – To Play or Not to Play on Turkey Day
· Nov. 16, 2008 – USTA Florida Grand Prix Masters at Isleworth
· Nov. 3, 2008 – USPTA Fort Myers Pro League
· Nov. 1, 2008 – Tennis Equipment Review: Kirschbaum Pro Line II
· Oct. 19, 2008 – Creating a Winning Team Atmosphere
· Oct. 18, 2008 – USTA State Championship & USPTA Grand Prix
· Oct. 9, 2008 – Mixing it up in Daytona at Sectionals
· Sept. 22, 2008 – Niles Already Missing the USTA Florida Senior Circuit
· Sept. 15, 2008 – Tennis Parent Gone Wild
· Sept. 1, 2008 – Old School Rant: Crude Ain’t Cool