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Tallahassee's Bob Graves -- USTA Florida March 2011 Volunteer of the Month

March 10, 2011 09:58 AM
Graves-webTallahassee's Bob Graves is putting his early retirement years to use in passing along the love of tennis to a new generation -- children learning the game through the USTA's new 10 and Under Tennis featuring the QuickStart play format.

Graves coaches three teams, and assists with three others, helping beginner and even special needs children receive a fun introduction to tennis at Southwood Community Courts, Winthrop Park, and the Forest Meadows Tennis Center in Tallahassee.

"Fortunately, I am retired and now have the time for coaching three leagues and assisting with the others," Graves said. "I have not worked with special needs children before. The experience was positive because the mother was very supportive."

Graves considers his specialty working with children who may have had a difficult introduction to the sport with conventional tennis equipment, and turning around their attitudes via the child-scaled 10 and Under Tennis smaller racquets, low-compression balls, net and court sizes, all of which make is easier for children to quickly find success and learn the basics of tennis.

"I enjoy watching the kids faces when they do something well, or when they are trying hard," Graves said. "One boy we had, on the first day he kept saying 'I hate tennis!' I spoke with him and found out that he hated all sports. After working with him and giving him positive re-enforcement, he began to enjoy himself and looked forward to coming to the QuickStart Tennis lessons. His mother noticed the change and mentioned this to us.

"The laughter of the kids and their disappointment when each session is over lets me know that I've been successful," said Graves, who assisted with the season kick-off party and the year-end party for all six 10 and Under Tennis leagues he volunteered with."

"Bob will do whatever it takes and go wherever he is needed to promote 10 and Under Tennis in the Tallahassee area," said George English, tennis program coordinator for the Panhandle region. "He even volunteered his time and expertise to serve as emcee and DJ at the Tallahassee Tennis Extravaganza, held recently to attract new players of all ages to the game of tennis."

As a late comer to the sport, Graves has been playing league tennis since 2001, and has advanced to USTA League Nationals representing Florida for his 3.0-level men's squad.

"Though I had played before off and on, I hadn't consistently," Graves said. "My wife participated in USTA events, so I got rated and started participating in some USTA leagues. I have met some wonderful people, and am really enjoying the seniors leagues because they just seem more fun, though still competitive. My wife became the league coordinator for the 10 and Under Tennis and I assisted her on the courts."

The USTA Florida March 2011 Volunteer of the Month, Graves is now an active voice for more retired individuals who enjoy the game helping out with 10 and Under Tennis leagues and volunteering their time to introduce children to the "sport of a lifetime."

"I wish more people in my position would volunteer to help the young people," Graves said. "Tennis is a great way to teach respect and good sportsmanship while having a lot of fun. The 10 and Under Tennis leagues need lots of volunteers in order for the kids to keep active. I could not assist with special needs children if we had not had other coaches to assist the other kids."


Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Family Members: wife, Sandy Layne; three children, Christel Goddard, Shea Zahner and Robert E. Graves; and three granddaughters, Paige, Grace, and Sadie.
Favorite Movie: Love Actually
Favorite Food: Sweet & Sour Chicken
Favorite Travel: anywhere with my wife
Favorite Shot: Slice Forehand

My earliest tennis memory was..."Playing against my parents as a child."

If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."My wife, daughter and son-in-law!"

When I am not playing tennis I am..."Windsurfing."

Best ever tennis memory..."Going to USTA nationals with my 3.0 seniors teams. Sadly, our captain from that team, Jay Tidelberg, passed away three months later."

I like to volunteer in tennis because..."I enjoy the game, the people I play against, and working with kids."






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