USTA Florida January 2011 Volunteer of the Month -- Henner Lenhardt, Winter Park
by Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com
Henner Lenhardt wants kids in Florida to be able to play high school tennis -- not just the high-performance world beaters, but all kids.
Many high school coaches take the minimum amount of kids on a team, while other counties in Florida are cancelling tennis programs and other sports due to budget cuts in difficult economic times. Lenhardt's solution: create, in partnership with other organizers and USTA Florida, the Central Florida High School Conference, a "no-cut" program
where students who don't have a high school team, junior varsity (JV) students, and kids who might otherwise not even make the JV team compete against each other in a season that runs concurrently with the Florida varsity tennis season.
Last year the conference began as a pilot program with six schools, which were made part of the USTA Jr. Team Tennis league
and were also allowed to compete at the USTA Florida Jr. Team Tennis Championships. In 2011 the program looks to grow, encompassing additional schools in Central Florida.
"The High School Conference league is a success because players that do not make their varsity team now have another avenue to compete on a team and represent their school on a club level," Lenhardt says. "The players that used to try out for the team once a year now have access to their own team. The High School Conference combines the three elements you must have for players to stay in the game: improvement, friends and fun."
Lenhardt says the success of the USTA Florida 'Tennis on Campus' series
of tournaments for college and university club tennis teams is filtering down to the high schools, and leagues such as the Central Florida High School Conference will filter into college club tennis.
"There is no doubt that this trend will catch on around Florida and the country," Lenhardt says. "The high school conference and Tennis on Campus program create a synergy that will be another avenue for players to pursue."
He is also an ardent supporter of the 10 and Under Tennis
(featuring the QuickStart format of play) program, which gives smaller and beginning children an easy entry into the game to learn the basics of tennis with scaled-down equipment.
"The [10 and Under Tennis] format is here to stay and the sooner professionals get on board, the sooner we can grow the game, grow the businesss, and grow champions, not just in tennis but in life," Lenhardt said. "This format lets kids start younger, rally longer, and compete sooner."
In 2010 Lenhardt was also the recipient of a USTA Florida "Share the Love" grant
to promote his Orlando Grand Prix
series of events, one-day round robin tournaments for children that expose players to competitive introductory-level play. The events are played at approximately 10 clubs in and around Orlando.
"In Central Florida, our goal is to bring together schools, tennis organizations, public and private facilities, and the best coaches in the community to grow the great sport of tennis," Lenhardt said of the program entering its fifth year. "There is a need to make an introductory tennis event that is competitive, educational, and more abbreviated than a regular sanctioned event. I hope to create a positive first experience for players so they will make tennis their sport of a lifetime."
He has already created a positive feeling among parents and coaches, who no longer have to bear witness to disappointed children being cut from the team, and cut out of playing school tennis.
"The idea is born from many coaches, parents, and volunteers that through the years have witnessed high school tryouts with 40 players, and only 10 players making the team," Lenhardt says. "The work has not been done by me but by Nita Klingenberg, USTA Jr. Team Tennis Coordinator; Terri Cunningham, Winter Park High School girls and boys tennis coach, and the volunteer captains which make this league possible."
Panama City Beach, Fla.
wife Abby, daughter Carly, son Tanner
any mountain with snow on it
"The 'tweener,' which as Roger Federer says, 'You must swing very, very fast and very, very carefully.'"
My earliest tennis memory was
..."Playing with family and in the community."
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be
..."Colin Powell, Roger Federer and Dave Matthews."
When I am not playing tennis I am
..."with my family."
Best-ever tennis memories
..."Playing tennis with my family, winning the Florida state doubles title with Brandon Walters...winning the Ojai Doubles title with Kelly Jones...competing in the NCAA tournament with Paul Haarhuis...practicing with Bjorn Borg at the Monte Carlo Country Club...teaching on the grasscourts of the Meadow Club in Southampton, N.Y...and helping players reach the next level in their game."
I like to volunteer in tennis because
..."The more you give, the more you receive."