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Top Tennis Volunteers Honored at 2012 USTA Florida Awards Weekend

December 2, 2012 01:14 PM
food-3-webMore than 250 USTA Florida volunteers, staff and tennis community members gathered to celebrate the movers and shakers in Florida recreational tennis at the United States Tennis Association-Florida Section's 63rd Annual Awards and Volunteer Celebration Weekend, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.
 
Highlights of the weekend included a Meals of Hope event where volunteers packaged dry-food meals for homeless in the Orlando area, and activities such as national speakers, the annual awards, the 2012 "Future Forecast" for recreational tennis, tennis play events, the "Breakfast with the Stars" major awards and feature videos, and more.
 
"What a wonderful weekend, on Saturday featuring Jon Gordon, best-selling author and our keynote speaker, starting the day with his principles for a positive attitude," said USTA Florida Volunteer Development & Meetings Manager. "We were joined by Delaine Mast, a USTA National board member, who shared information on the state of tennis worldwide. Our awards honored those individuals who have meant so much to the association in the past year. Sunday night featured the 'Meals of Hope' event where volunteers and staff packaged approximately 40,000 meals for the homeless in the Orlando area."
 
 
Here are the winners from the 63rd Annual USTA Florida Annual Awards:
 
MembOrg-Kiwi_PhotoMember Organization of the Year Award
Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach (Murray Lilly accepting)
Slogan or song: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
 
A site for numerous charity and community tennis events throughout the year, in 2012 the Kiwi Tennis Center hosted, among other events, Aces for Autism, raising money and awareness for autism treatment; Girls Empowerment Tennis Workshop, benefiting the daughters of women that were the victims of domestic violence; Girl Scout Troop Tennis Badge fulfillment workshop; hosting college exhibitions and matches for the Florida Institute of Technology and Oxford University teams; hosting the "To Serve with Love" fundraiser for the Women's Center Domestic Violence Shelter; and offering a full slate of USTA adult and junior leagues and tournaments.
 
The Kiwi Tennis Club was the first facility in Brevard County to install permanent blended lines for 10 and Under Tennis, on both hardcourts and clay. The facility was also a testing ground for the '2.5 F.L. (Fun League) Tennis Blast' to bring beginner adult players back to tennis.
 
The club's director of special events, Holly Baney, says "Multiple additional fundraisers are held year to year on an ad-hoc basis with local charities and schools."
 
Besides events, the club supports the USTA mission with local school programs, after-school programs and Play Days, and both men's and women's USTA Pro Circuit events in concert with multiple community outreach events. Too numerous to mention are the events and programs supported by the club's pros and staff, who strive to keep all ages involved in the sport of a lifetime.
 
 
 
daleros-family-webTennis Family of the Year Award
The Joe D'Aleo Family of Santa Rosa Beach
Slogan or song: "I've Gotta Feeling"
 
10 and Under Tennis came along right on time for Joe and Jessica D'Aleo, who adopted the format for their two young children, Jacob and Ethan, then went about spreading the word in the Destin area of the Panhandle.
 
Joe says, "Having a young family made it easy to get involved. 10 and Under Tennis has brought us unexpected opportunities in our community, sharing with friends and visitors that come to our Emerald Coast."
 
For the Florida Section in 2012, Joe served as a 10 and Under Tennis Committee member, a member of the Jr. Competition Committee, and on the USTA Florida Coaches Committee. Locally he worked to introduce 10 and Under Tennis to elementary school PE classes, and the community at large through various Play Days and festivals at area sites.
 
Jessica serves as the Jr. Team Tennis local league coordinator for the Emerald Coast, and volunteers at local schools teaching tennis in PE classes, and working with school administrators to apply for USTA Florida "Share the Love" grants.
 
Sons Jacob and Ethan both volunteer with helping out at clinics, Play Days and tournaments. Jessica gives Jacob the official title of "Go-For" as he is mom's go-to man. Ethan, a surfer and recipient of the 2012 Billabong Destin's Tom Curry Sportsmanship Award for having the "most stoke," is always stoked to help with whatever comes next.
 
 
 
bruner-vol-of-the-year-webVolunteer of the Year Award
Lyn Bruner of Fort Myers
Slogan or song: "Act as if what you do makes a difference… It does."
 
With more than 35 years of experience volunteering for the USTA, Lyn Bruner is the person you want your beginning junior or adult players receiving an introduction to the game from.
 
Lyn, a tournament director for junior events and a volunteer for the Lee County Community Tennis Association, says "Running tournaments allows me to offer a positive competitive experience in an organized way. I enjoy working with junior players and parents. Tennis has been part of my life for over 35 years and I want others to enjoy as much as I do all that tennis offers."
 
Locally in Ft. Myers, Lyn spreads her love of the game as the volunteer vice president for the Lee County CTA, coordinating fellow volunteers for the organization. She has volunteered for the CTA a total of six years, including 2009 when it was named the top USTA Community Tennis Association in the U.S.
 
For the last two years she has served on the Florida Section's Volunteer Council; the last four years as the Lee County Community Representative for the Section; and the past six years on the Lee County CTA in various positions.
 
This year on the Volunteer Council she also assisted USTA Florida staff in implementing the use of a Microsoft SharePoint web-based application for USTA volunteers, increasing the flow of communication throughout the state. She says, "Involvement in USTA Florida has allowed me to expand my tennis family and provided me with new volunteer opportunities."
 
 
 
florio-female-merit-webMerit Award (Female)
Terri Florio of Jacksonville
Slogan or song: "She Works Hard for the Money"
 
The long-time executive director of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation and USTA Florida Board of Directors member, Terri has worked behind the scenes and hand-in-hand with the USTA building a successful NJTL chapter serving underprivileged children, while at the same time furthering Florida tennis from a leadership perspective.
 
She says, "Although I don't have many specific individual awards, I feel I have contributed to the overall success of USTA Florida and MWKF through my efforts."
 
Those efforts have included 12 years volunteering for the Florida Section, six years on the board of directors, numerous committee positions, and serving on the NJTL national committee. She has served as a sounding board and advisor as the Section developed the USTA Florida Section Foundation, and as executive director for one of the most successful NJTL chapters in the country. Her work on behalf of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation serves as a model for all NJTLs. Not only is she a national NJTL Chapter Leader of the Year Award winner, but the MWKF has also twice won the national NJTL Chapter of the Year Award.
 
Terri says, "My participation in USTA Florida has enriched my life in many ways as well as helped me in my volunteer efforts. The new friends that I have made, as well as resources that I have been made aware of and utilized, have been invaluable."
 
Terri picks the song "She Works Hard for the Money" as her theme because, as she says, "I have to raise a ton of money and I rarely have any down time."
 
 
 
girardi-male-merit-webMerit Award (Male)
Phil Girardi of St. Petersburg
Slogan or song: "It's My Life"
 
The long-time head professional and director at Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis in Treasure Island, Phil Girardi's career in tennis has been a stream of happy surprises.
 
He says, "Starting as a teaching pro in 1996, I never knew what was coming next, from being the 'Free Lesson Coordinator' back in the yellow- and blue-card days, to my present situation being coach of a college, and everything in between."
 
A current Board of Directors member and chair of the Recreational Tennis Council, Girardi has constantly been involved in local or USTA Florida volunteering since that first year in the industry. His leadership positions has also included USTA Florida district director, board of directors for the Suncoast Tennis Foundation, USTA Florida Executive Committee, and National Junior Tennis Committee among other positions. In 2009 he received the Section's Committee Volunteer of the Year Award, and in 2010 the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's College Coach of the Year Award.
 
He says, "As director of tennis for the City of Treasure Island, I've been able to offer many USTA programs over the years such as JTT, leagues, tournaments, Ralleyball, QuickStart, USA 123 Tennis, No-Cut High School programs, and don't forget 'Play Tennis America.' The Section has always been a resource for everything I have done in this sport, and giving up the time to volunteer has been an easy decision. The friendships made through the process have been invaluable."
 
His song choice, "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi, he says, represents being blessed to do the things in life that he enjoys, and to make a career at it.
 
 
 
zirpoli-hall-of-fame-webHall of Fame Award
Jo-Ann Zirpoli of Niceville
Slogan or song: "Through the Years"
 
Since the mid-1980s when she first formed a local group of officials to improve the quality of USTA Florida tournaments in Okaloosa/Walton counties, Jo-Ann has employed her special skill set as a volunteer to set about making USTA Florida an efficient organization always looking forward to growth opportunities.
 
In the early 1990s the Florida Section saw substantial membership growth as Jo-Ann served as Membership Committee Chair, in 1994 receiving the Section's Committee Volunteer of the Year Award.
 
By the time she received the Section's Female Merit Award in 2000, Jo-Ann was further helping guide and chart the Section's growth, while assisting with the Section's bylaws, as she said, "bringing them into the 21st century." Over the next 10 years she contributed to the Section's strategic planning, working with staff and volunteers, organized the member database and developed reports, and led board sessions to brainstorm strategic plan and human resources challenges.
 
During the last three years she has functioned as the Awards Committee Chair, overseeing the group that strives to improve the honors the Section bestows on volunteers. As a Volunteer Council member, she works to improve volunteers' experiences in the organization.
 
Of her volunteer service Jo-Ann says, "I have been given challenges and opportunities that I never anticipated. Being a USTA Florida volunteer has helped me grow as a person. Being exposed to new ideas and working with others makes me realize that when you have a collaborative effort, great accomplishments can be achieved."
 
 
 
feig-spirit_of_tennis-webSpirit of Tennis Award
Steve Feig of Miami Beach
Slogan or song: "The Godfather"
 
For those not familiar with this honor, the USTA Florida Spirit of Tennis award is only presented periodically to an individual, corporation, association, or organization that has exhibited a spirit of extraordinary generosity toward the mission of USTA Florida.
 
For the past 18 years, Steve and his wife have sponsored the annual Clayton Feig Memorial Tennis Tournament at the Sans Souci Tennis Center. It is the only free USTA-sanctioned junior tournament in the state, a partnership between the Feig's and the City of North Miami Beach. The city donates the use of the center and staff for the event, and the Feig's pay for refreshments, balls, trophies, t-shirts and more for all participants. The event in the past has been named "Best Charity Fundraiser" by USTA national's Tennis in the Parks program.
 
The memorial event is in honor of their son Clayton Feig, a junior player at the Sans Souci Tennis Center who lost his life to epilepsy at age 18. Money raised during the event goes to the Epilepsy Foundation-Clayton Feig Fund.
 
Steve says, "As a free tournament it allows kids from all socio-economic groups to participate. This event provides a venue to continue the legacy of my son, Clayton. "To both myself and my wife, there is no more fitting way to memorialize Clayton's name than to offer an opportunity for those less fortunate to participate."
 
As for choosing the slogan "The Godfather," Steve says, "When you hear my voice, you will understand."
 
 
 
bayer-media-webMedia Excellence Award
Barbara Eisner Bayer of Hillsboro Beach
Slogan or song: "The Pursuit of Happiness"
 
Over the last four years, Barbara has developed into USTA Florida's own personal correspondent for Dade, Broward and South Palm Beach counties for a variety of USTA Florida publications and online. Aside from her day job as a writer and editor for the Motley Fool, the Internet's leading website for individual investors, and other financial education websites, she has become a dedicated documentarian of some of the greatest tennis stories happening in Southeast Florida.
 
She says, "My work provides recognition and acknowledgement of all the people who selflessly contribute their time and energies to enliven the work of USTA Florida."
 
Some of her notable stories or profiles have spanned league Captain's Appreciation Days to long-time tennis officials to charity events such as Weston's "Court N a Cure," Voices for Children, and the Woodfield benefit for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Also on her radar are the results of local leagues and state and national achievements.
 
She says, "By researching and writing about the terrific men and women who dedicate their time and energy -- usually with no compensation -- to make other people's lives better through tennis, I've been inspired to do more myself. Participating in the USTA as a player and a writer has opened my heart."
 
Of her slogan choice she says, "Happiness is something I can help people achieve in every arena I enter."
 
 
scudder-official-webOfficial of the Year
Pam Scudder of Lehigh Acres
Slogan or song: "The Friend at Court"
 
Player, coach, official, volunteer, tennis advocate -- all these labels fit Pamela, who in 2012 went above and beyond her duties courtside or in the umpire's chair.
 
At the Section level, Pamela has worked to improve officiating for the sport and the state of Florida as a member of the USTA Florida Officials Committee, and will remain on the committee moving forward into 2013-14. She is also the treasurer for the Southwest Florida Tennis Officials Association, and recently served on a task force for improving consistency in officiating in the Florida Section.
 
But officiating is only a part of her involvement in the sport. She says, "I continuously try to promote tennis whether I am competing, teaching or officiating. My interaction with diverse people I have encountered through tennis has enriched my life immensely. I volunteer with the after-school program through Lee County Community Tennis Association and the parks and recreation in introducing tennis to the youth in Southwest Florida. My reward is seeing most these kids now participating in middle school, high school and team tennis."
 
Pamela is well aware of both the officials' and players' side of the court, as she lists one of her highlights as her 3.5 senior league team finishing fourth at the USTA League National Championships.
 
 
jax-phillips-al-mills-trn-year-webAl Mills Memorial Adult Tournament of the Year
Jacksonville Clay Court Championships (REB Phillips accepting)
Slogan or song: "Celebrate Good Times -- Come On!
 
Selva Marina Country Club in the Jacksonville Beaches area has hosted the Jacksonville Clay Court Championships for seven years, the result of REB's past service at the USTA Florida Section level.
 
He says, "It was the vision of Mark Taylor when we sat on the 2005-2006 Board together and he told me Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida region was in dire need of an adult sanctioned event. The Selva Tennis Committee gets all the credit for the quality of this event. We are able to secure great sponsors year after year and consistently host a high-quality event. Sponsor dollars allow the perks for the players, yet all the proceeds go to the "Playing for Love" charity that supports a local under-privileged after-school program."
 
The event starts with a Family-friendly Friday night court-side dinner and a visit from Jax-son-d'ville, the Jacksonville Jaguar's mascot. Every morning starts with bagels, cream cheese, and fruit, with a full lunch on Saturday and Sunday. REB adds, "Of course draft beer, Gatorade, shirts, cups, and sponsor gifts are a given.
 
Atlantic Beach is a secret little gem on the Jacksonville coastline with beach access at the end of every street and trendy shops and restaurants blocks from the tourney. We love sharing our town and club and hope it will become a weekend the players look forward to year after year."
 
Of his slogan choice, REB says, "A tournament should be a weekend party. They get to enjoy the weekend without worrying about anything except good tennis, meeting new friends, and catching up with old ones."
 
 
ginnard-female-player-webFemale Player of the Year
Mary Ginnard of Fort Lauderdale
Slogan or song: "Every Success Story Starts With Someone Who Hates To Lose"
 
A teaching pro at the fabled Lauderdale Tennis Club and a coach at the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute, Mary has in 2012 also found the time to rise to No. 2 in the country in singles in the U.S. Women's 60s rankings, and No. 3 in the 55 doubles. This year she completed three legs of the Gold Slam Doubles, adding to her 26 USTA national tournament trophies.
 
In September at the ITF Super-Seniors World Team Championships in Umag, Croatia, she was a member of the U.S.'s 60-and-over Alice Marble Cup team that captured the world championship, in the final defeating the Netherlands 3-0 at the most prestigious event on the ITF Seniors circuit. In other age divisions she has also been a member of championship Margaret Court Cup, Maria Bueno Cup, and Maureen Connelly Cup teams for the U.S.
 
Mary likes to balance her teaching and competing with charity events and Pro-Ams that benefit numerous causes. She says, "Tennis has enabled me to travel the world and meet players of all nationalities. It has allowed me to enjoy the competition and camaraderie of playing the game I love, while coaching has allowed me to give back to the game by mentoring, encouraging and teaching all levels of players."
 
No. 1-ranked in Florida and a five-time winner for Florida at the USTA Intersectional team competition in six appearances, we will likely continue to be lauding Mary's successes for years to come.
 
 
Male_Player-Drilling_PhotoMale Player of the Year
Fred Drilling of Estero
Slogan or song: "As Good as It Gets"
 
He has given lessons on the White House tennis court and played at Camp David with President George H. Bush, represented the U.S. at international ITF events, but still says he says he gets some of his greatest enjoyment from playing in local USTA Leagues.
 
Fred seems to defy age, only getting better as he gets older. This year he qualified as one of only four players on the U.S.'s Jack Crawford Cup team, the Men's 70s division, for the ITF Super-Seniors World Team Championships in Umag, Croatia, where he captained the team. He represented Florida at the Keith Donoff Challenge, which pits the top seniors in USTA Sections against each other in a team format, and competed at other national and international events too numerous to mention. Over the last few years he has won both the ITF singles and doubles championships in his age division, and attained the world No. 1 ranking.
 
But what sets Fred apart is his willingness to act as an advocate for the game. He says, "I've given numerous free exhibitions to inspire senior tennis players. I started the women's tennis program at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2000 and coached for 5 years, when our team gave frequent exhibitions and clinics for Florida children. I've also given free clinics to the many young children in my development of 2,000 homes." He cites USTA leagues and tournaments as a source for many new and long-time friends, and regarding international senior play says, "It displays the wonderful opportunities that tennis affords individuals of all ages."
 
Fred chose his theme song "Good as It Gets" by Earl Klugh, because he says, "Florida tennis is as 'Good As It Gets' for me!"
 
 
Jr_Tourn-Wolfe2Bobby Curtis Junior Tournament of the Year
Coral Springs Super Series (Lew Wolfe accepting)
Slogan or song: "Magnificent"
 
The February Coral Springs Super Series event is a template for other tournaments regarding communication between Lew, his staff, the players and parents. Featuring a tournament website regularly updated three months prior to the event, Lew communicates with players via phone and e-mail blasts, including pre-tournament and welcome communications.
 
He seeks out top-level referees and umpires, offers player perks, and selects two juniors who need community service hours to volunteer as court monitors and help with tournament desk operations.
 
Lew attributes his good fortune to being trained by Dave and Ann Brown in tournament administration, and over the years has grown to run anywhere from 24-30 sanctioned events per year, from junior rookie level to adult designated.
 
He says, "I am passionate about directing USTA tournaments. I like watching players progress though the years, whether its a 3.0 woman learning the game as an adult or a top junior trying to get points for a college scholarship. My background as a coach and player serves me well as I try to treat the players with respect and professionalism. That is why so many players enjoy my events."
 
Lew says the tournament's slogan is the U2 song "Magnificent," because "That's what I want the players to feel and think after my events."
 
 
harmon-good-webJunior Competitive Coach of the Year
Rodney Harmon of Miramar
Slogan or song: "I Get Knocked Down"
 
This past July, Deerwood Country Club in Jacksonville lost Rodney to Georgia Tech University, where he took the opportunity to head the Yellow Jackets' women's tennis team. But prior to the move, Deerwood and the Jacksonville area benefited from the former USTA national coach's expertise.
 
Rodney raised the games of some of the top players in the state such as Davey Roberts, Jason and Kandis Legall, Jaclyn Switkes and Trey Nickerson, in all working with and developing more than 20 juniors in the upper echelon of the Section's junior rankings.
 
Rodney says, "I enjoyed working with the players and their families to help develop the players both on and off-court. It was also a pleasure running the junior tournaments and getting to know players, parents and their personal coaches from all over the state."
 
This is Rodney's second consecutive USTA Florida award after last year winning Outstanding Diversity Achievement for supporting multi-cultural camps in Florida and other USTA Sections, and providing individual coaching and guidance to players and other coaches.
 
On the choice of his theme "I Get Knocked Down," he says, "Because in life, sometimes you get knocked down, but you always have to get back up and never let anything keep you down."
 
 
Jr_Player-StewartAlbert Carrington Balink Award
Katarina Stewart of Miami
Slogan or song: "Eye of the Tiger"
 
It was one year ago that Kate rina's coming-out party began at the Jr. Orange Bowl where she won the Girls' 14s title. Since then the now-15-year-old has only increased her stock with key tournament wins, and is now testing her abilities on the lower levels of the pro tour.
 
This year she was runner-up at the USTA Girls' 16 Nationals, and won multiple regional titles. In October at the USTA Pro Circuit event in South Carolina, she qualified to the main draw before defeating the No. 3 seed, a player at No. 146 on the WTA Rankings, in straight sets. She was also a quarterfinalist at the USTA Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island. Last month she captured the singles title at the ITF Grade 4 event in Atlanta, featuring many of the top juniors in the world.
 
Katerina has the ability to employ a full-court game, utilizing volley skills that won her the 14s girls doubles and mixed doubles titles at the USTA Florida Bobby Curtis State Championships, where this year she also won the singles title without dropping a set.
 
She trains under the guidance of her father, Cesar, at The Next Level Tennis Academy in Coral Gables. Giving insight into her character, she was also named the 2012 Sportsmanship Award winner at the Girls' 18s Clay Court national Championships.
 
She chose her theme song "Eye of the Tiger" because, she says, "once I start competing I become an aggressive competitor."
 
 
decampli-jimmy-gantt-webJimmy Gantt Memorial Award
Grant DeCampli of Winter Park
Slogan or song: "Space Jam"
 
Junior competitive tournament tennis can be a cutthroat experience, or on the other side of the coin an inspirational lifeline to individuals and their families. Eighteen-year-old Grant DeCampli was born with multifactorial complications that displayed themselves in developmental and learning issues as he grew older. As a young child he would watch his sister, an accomplished junior player, compete at tournaments before against the odds taking to the court himself.
 
Grant said, "I was a good spectator at her USTA events, then I wanted to play and USTA put me in a draw. That was a special day for me and very inspiring."
 
Grant was playing Rookie-level tournaments by age 14, and training at the Winter Park Tennis Center near his home. Tennis, he says, gave him the opportunity to make friends and compete, and interact with peers since he was homeschooled.
 
His mother Christie said, "Through his tennis, Grant has inspired all of us to work harder and be dedicated, it's been wonderful as a family. It's been a way of keeping the family together and it's given us a common bond."
 
Grant has overcome adversity to make leaps and bounds in his tennis ability, this year finishing as the consolation finalist at the Winter Park local Boys' 18 event. His choice of song that best describes his effort, Space Jam, is about coming back strong, an apt description of our 2012 Jimmy Gantt Memorial Award winner.
 
 
allshouse-CTA-vol-year-webCTA Volunteer of the Year
Susan Allshouse of Boynton Beach
Slogan or song: "One Shining Moment"
 
No stranger to the CTA Volunteer of the Year Award, Susan Allshouse first received the honor in 2006 when she was re-appointed to the USTA Florida Community Tennis Council, was elected to the Section's Board of Directors, served as an Adult League Coordinator for her region, was designated a schools specialist for the Section's Schools Program, was appointed a Regional Director for Region 6, and was nominated as a Section National Trainer.
 
If it's to be believed, that was a slow year for Susan. Since then she has had 55 additional designations or re-appointments to volunteer leadership positions or events at the local, sectional and national levels in community tennis.
 
This year she was re-appointed to seven positions, and overall served in 14 positions ranging from 10 and Under Tennis Specialist to Share the Love Grant Committee member, Special Olympics trainer, and helping develop fellow leaders in community tennis.
 
Says the self-employed entrepreneur, "I am fortunate to have been given the time and the ability to do what I love and to love what I do, and have those who support me in the process. USTA Florida have provided a reason to be an active learner, to always put maximum effort into everything, and the opportunity to share with others and enable a healthier lifestyle for all of us. I've definitely learned the importance of the 3 F's -- fun, friends and family."
 
 
vogter-diversity-webOutstanding Diversity Achievement Award
Karen Vogter of Tallahassee
Slogan or song: "You've Got to Have Friends"
 
Organizations thank their volunteers for their service, but in the case of Tallahassee Challenger Tournament Director Karen Vogter, she is often on the receiving end of heartfelt "thank yous" from volunteers at her annual Special Olympics Carnival. The joyous event for 300 special-needs youth participants brings smiles to participants and adults alike.
 
Karen says, "We have had over 5,000 Special Olympians at our events over the years. Many of these students participate in the Special Olympics Games in tennis. Once I got Doug Booth to come up here and see what we were doing, he was hooked!"
 
During the annual Tallahassee Challenger USTA Pro Circuit tournament, Karen and her staff also organize four 10 and Under Tennis events for second graders of various socio-economic levels from Leon County schools and some of the surrounding counties. Over the years they have introduced more than 1,500 2nd graders to the game of tennis, and donated 10 and Under Tennis equipment to 14 local elementary schools. They also host an event for the Boys & Girls Club and Boys Town, and one for the "First Serve" kids in Tallahassee.
 
The first all-volunteer challenger tournament on the USTA Pro Circuit, Karen and her staff have leveraged the event to serve diverse youth populations in Tallahassee.
 
 
Schools-Eric_Denise-photo-webUSTA School Tennis Volunteers of the Year
Denise Griffo and Eric Stern of the Palm Beach County School District
Slogan or song: "We Are the Champions"
 
While many school counties in Florida are cutting their physical education programs, Denise and Eric have worked to strengthen theirs in Palm Beach County -- and to arrange professional development opportunities for teachers, ensuring they had 100 percent participation with schools in the Wellington area, which received a grant from USTA national and the Florida Section to grow 10 and Under Tennis.
 
Eric as the school district of Palm Beach County district administrator for physical education for the past six years, and Denise as a K-12 physical education curriculum resource teacher, have championed tennis in their region and professional development for PE teachers.
 
Eric says, "Over the past several years, I have attended many USTA Florida workshops and presentations and have been amazed by the ease of implementation and the modified equipment and rules for students. In August 2011, we were able to successfully orchestrate a professional development workshop for over 105 elementary schools, and over 65 percent completed a USTA Florida membership application."
 
Eric has also advocated for the sport through his roles as president for the Florida Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance and Sports; and an executive committee member for the Florida Action For Healthy Kids Partnership. Kim says, "USTA Florida has provided our physical education teachers with a great curriculum to strengthen their programs."
 
Of their song choice they say, "We chose this song because our roles as educators are to provide people with opportunities to succeed in life."
 
 
schuyler-TOC-webUSTA Tennis On Campus Coordinator of the Year
Andrew Schuyler of St. Petersburg
Slogan or song: "All you really need are a few good friends"
 
When USTA Florida started putting together a Tennis on Campus Planning Committee to tackle the upcoming tournament calendar, participant A.J. was her first choice to launch the project. He recruited other students that eventually grew to a 15-member committee representing at least two players from each university. But he wasn't done there.
 
He says, "I got a little carried away, as usual, and came up with a proposal for changes to the Florida 'Tennis on Campus' Series. I thought to myself, 'How can we make things more interesting? What if we made things more like the ATP and WTA tours?'"
 
His proposal, adopted for this 2012-13 season, features a three-tiered series of Grand Slam, Masters, and Tour-level events, on more consistent dates that players could consistently recognize. On his school's club team at the University of Central Florida, he ran for president when he saw participation declining, winning the nomination and growing the club by 20+ players. He organized summer practices for the first time in club history, reinvigorating a club that was losing a large number of graduating seniors.
 
The club also has a planned slate of community volunteer projects, including introducing 10 and Under Tennis programs at local parks.
 
He says, "My experience participating and working with the USTA Florida Tennis on Campus Series has greatly helped me develop my leadership skills."
 
 
USTA Jr. Team Tennis League Coordinator of the Year
Diana Gardner of Jacksonville Beach
Slogan or song: "High Hopes"
 
gardner-LLC-webFor almost 10 years Diana has been setting the high-water mark for Jr. Team Tennis in the state of Florida, beginning in 2003 when she began and first winning this award the following year. This marks her overall third JTT LLC of the Year honor after winning a second time in 2006.
 
In 2012 Diana expanded her Jacksonville JTT league to 659 players, but most noteworthy has been her mentoring of other area beginning leagues, and working with schools and school districts to expand programs. She served as a volunteer on various committees for the launch of the St. Johns Middle School Tennis pilot program south of Jacksonville, featuring eight schools, 11 teams and 103 players. This fall they added private schools to the program, and are planning a similar program in the Jacksonville Beaches area.
 
Diane also makes major contributions to the Florida Section's 10 and Under Tennis Task Force, and is constantly on the lookout for ways to bring new players to the game.
 
She says, "My participation with the JTT program has allowed me to experience goal fulfillment, and enjoy the amazing results of having a purposeful plan. More recently I have watched others grow in their volunteer roles, creating new youth tennis opportunities."
 
Diana chose her theme song "High Hopes" because she says, "it's important to keep a positive attitude and stay the course of the project."
 
For more information contact Rick Vach at vach@florida.usta.com.
 
 
 
 

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