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Jacksonville's Allen Named USTA Florida April 2011 Tennis Volunteer of the Month

April 28, 2011 09:11 AM
MWKF-Dede-and-Mal.jpg
Dede Allen (left) with Jacksonville resident, former Wimbledon finalist and MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation founder MaliVai Washington
The Jacksonville, Florida area has consistently put up the top numbers of tennis players age 10 and under in the state over the last few years since the USTA debuted 10 and Under Tennis featuring the QuickStart play format. Part of that success is due to USTA Florida volunteer and Jacksonville Beach resident Dede Allen, who from serving as a USTA National QuickStart trainer down to a local captain for USTA Jr. Team Tennis squads of 8-under, 10-under and 12-under kids is involved in seemingly every level of the game.
 
"I love to see the smiles on the kids' faces when they hit the ball straight or actually over the net," said Allen of working with the smaller children using the 10 and Under Tennis equipment, which features kid-sized racquets, nets, court sizes and low-compression balls that allow children to find success quickly.
 
She is the director of tennis at St. Johns Golf and Country Club, but as an advocate of the new 10 and Under Tennis format she works with area clubs, conducting workshops or simply introducing the format to pros so that kids aren't forced to learn the game with adult-sized racquets and regular tennis balls that bounce over their heads.
 
"I volunteer at any facility willing to give QuickStart a fair shot," Allen says.
 
She also assists the Jacksonville tennis program coordinator and local league coordinator with events.
 
"We've had great turn-out for QuickStart at several jamborees and festivals this past summer and fall," Allen said. "QuickStart had a place at a pre-season Jaguars [NFL] game. During the women's finals of the US Open, Jacksonville had a 'Twilight Tennis' event downtown, in which we had two QuickStart courts set up. I set up two QuickStart courts at the Linda's Legacy Women's Charity Tournament, where Tracy Austin was the guest pro. She loved watching the kids, she had never really been involved with [QuickStart] before."
 
Amanda Becker is the Jacksonville-area USTA Florida tennis program coordinator that put together the Jacksonville Jaguars and Twilight Tennis events.
 
“We are very lucky to have Dede living in the Jacksonville community,” Becker said. “She has been a tremendous help at many events, expos, and kick-offs around town. She is the ‘go-to’ person whenever we have a question about the format of play, and she is always willing to offer a helping hand to get a new program off the ground. Dede is also incredible with children. She has a special knack for getting kids to warm up to her quickly and she has no problem acting like a big goofball on the court; the kids just love her.”
 
Allen brings a wealth of tennis development background to her work with children just beginning the game or advancing through the 10 and Under Tennis format. She is the former head coach of the Wake Forest University women's tennis team for seven years, and she was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1987. She worked for USTA National for more than 14 years as the administrator for USA Tennis Junior Competition, and was liaison to the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. Allen is the author of three books on recruiting, including the USTA Guide for Prospective College Athletes. She writes a periodic column at TennisRecruiting.net, and maintains her own college tennis website at www.ddasports.com.
 
Now the lifetime USTA member is focusing her efforts on the next generation of players, and rejoining the coaching ranks -- albeit at a lower level.
 
"My very first 8-and-under team won their summer league," said Allen of coaching in the USTA Jr. Team Tennis league in Jacksonville. "The 12s team had a bit of a tougher summer -- they came in third."
 
While the former top-level coach reconciles her Jr. Team Tennis finishes outside of the top spot with a smile, she finishes first in April 2011 as the USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month.
 
ABOUT DEDE
 
Birthplace: Lake Forest, Illinois
Family Members: Vanessa Allen-Merry, Jacque Allen
Favorite Movie: any comedy
Favorite Food: ice cream
Favorite Travel: The Keys
Favorite Shot: forehand
 
My earliest tennis memory was..."skipping tennis lessons and going to a friends house to watch TV for an hour, then head home. My mom couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting any better."
 
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."my Mom, to show her that I really did get better -- even though I skipped lessons; Billie Jean King; and Jim Leidgen, my dad's best friend who talked me back into actually playing."
 
When I am not playing tennis I am..."kayaking and biking."
 
Best ever tennis memory..."being selected by my peers as ACC Coach of the Year while coaching at Wake Forest University."
 

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