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Pensacola's Vilardi Named Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month

July 16, 2014 01:37 PM
2014_VOM-Leslie_VivardiYou don't need to necessarily join a committee or be an organizational board member to be a key volunteer in tennis. As Pensacola's Leslie Vilardi demonstrates, at the local level or beyond, you simply need a love for sharing the game which has given you so much over the years.

A tennis player since the age of 14, Vilardi now ushers children younger than her starting age into tennis by volunteering at events in her area that utilize USTA Youth Tennis equipment -- smaller racquets and lower-bouncing balls, and smaller courts right-sized for kids learning the game, with an emphasis on fun.

"They are so excited and eager to play," she says of the children generally age 10 and under she works with. "It is honestly one of my favorites things to do. I've learned all of the [skill] stations for the school programs, and have volunteered in almost all of them. There is nothing like making kids smile, have fun, and learn a new skill."

Vilardi volunteers for Tara Dominguez, the USTA Florida 10 and under tennis coordinator for the Florida Panhandle area, assisting with events at both elementary schools and local courts.

"She so good at what she does, and sets up Play Days in the local elementary schools," she said of Dominguez. At Play Days the emphasis is on fun rather than competition, with a goal of keeping kids coming back for more.

"I have also volunteered at a number of events Tara coordinated at Roger Scott Tennis Center and Holice Williams tennis courts, again with young children, showing them to how much fun tennis can be," she says.

A lifetime of tennis, Vilardi says, is what motivates her to give of her time to little ones just picking up the sport.

"I played in high school, in college intramurals, and on the USTA Adult League teams," she says. "I currently play on a ladies league team in Pensacola. What I love about tennis is not just the competition or the exercise but also the social nature of the sport. I have met very good friends over the years on a tennis court. I am lucky to have a profession as flexible as my real estate career so that I can carve out time to give back to the community."

Tennis isn't the only recipient of the Pensacola natives' volunteer time, as she also gives to the United Way and its Paint Your Heart Out initiative, painting homes for the elderly or disabled; she served as past volunteer president of the board for the North Hill Preservation Association, a nonprofit that strives to preserve historic Pensacola structures; and is a Big Sister to a Little Sister, going on three years.

"Growing the sport is important," she says of her work at tennis' grassroots level. "I love playing with the children and seeing the joy on their faces."

USTA Florida thanks Leslie Vilardi as the July 2014 Volunteer of the Month for her service to local Pensacola elementary schools and introducing new generations to tennis.

Family Members: husband Guy, children Gigi, Josh and Zoe
Favorite Movie: The Truman Show
Favorite Food: cheese
Favorite Travel: Spain
Favorite Shot: forehand cross court

My earliest tennis memory was..."Watching Wimbledon with my family in the 1970s, and the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs Battle of the Sexes!"

If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Billie Jean King."

When I am not playing tennis I am..."Selling real estate. All I really love to do is read, read, read, and play tennis!"

My best tennis memory is..."Winning tennis districts in high school and going to state."





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