Vegosen, Tapia Inspire Tennis Faithful at USTA Annual Meeting

April 8, 2011 05:32 PM
The 2011 USTA Annual Award winners represent some of the best and brightest tennis personalities in the United States.
USTA Chairman and President Jon Vegosen addresses the crowd during the 2011 Annual Meeting, his first as President.
Keynote Speaker Andres Tapia (left) advised USTA employees and volunteers about the benefits of diversity in the workplace.
By Nicholas J. Walz,
"The USTA is an extraordinary organization. The reason, I believe, is primarily because of our people, the volunteers and staff gathered in this room today, along with the other volunteers and staff in communities throughout our 17 sections whose passion and dedication drive all we do. Our people are, without doubt, the USTA’s greatest resource.

It is your limitless talents that afford our association — and our sport — the opportunity to plan and achieve without limits."

In his first Annual Meeting as USTA Chairman of the Board and President, Jon Vegosen roused the crowd of 874 volunteers and organizational employees with an opening address of hope and focus. As the 50th president of the USTA, he plans to lead with a purpose and best leverage the talents of the top tennis minds in America.

Vegosen’s theme for the 2011-2012 Term is "Tennis:  The Sport Opportunity."  "Each of us in this room has been enriched by the opportunities that tennis has provided. I wish there was time to share everybody’s stories…I recognize that, for far too long, tennis has perceived as anything but a sport of opportunity. It has too often been viewed as elitist. We have made good progress in taking some of the air out of that myth," Vegosen said.

To view President Vegosen's opening address in its entirety, please click on this link for a transcript of his speech. For video highlights of the speech, click here.

The 2011 Annual Meeting from the Naples Grande Resort in Naples, Fla. united committees and task forces, colleagues and friends from each of the 50 states and 17 sections which comprise the USTA under the same roof to discuss the future of the sport for players of all ages. As Vegosen stated, the conference featured those in the organization who have been - and will continue to be - hard at work in developing tennis programming and infrastructure at both the community and professional levels.

Committee meetings covered a wide array of interests, including volunteers, CTAs, NJTL programming, Tennis in the Parks, player development, sportsmanship, leagues, collegiate programming, information technology and membership just to name a few. Attendees used the three-day event to highlight goals and make plans for furthering the USTA mission and their various committee and task force charges.

Vegosen articulated his vision that the USTA can both fulfill and transcend its mission. "Imagine if instead of only promoting and developing the growth of tennis, we also devoted ourselves to promoting and developing the growth of people through tennis," said Vegosen. "Imagine if we became known as the sport that is genuinely concerned about the lives of its constituents and a sport that is responsive to their needs.

"Imagine if we created pathways for youngsters from diverse backgrounds to easily enter, enjoy, and pursue our sport in their communities, at their levels, on an affordable basis that would not require them to sacrifice educationally and would strengthen their personal growth. Imagine if we put in place a player development system that aims to create the conditions for developing both champions on the court and champions in life."

As part of his vision, Vegosen believes that the USTA must develop cross-cultural competence to insure successful diversity and inclusion and that the face of tennis should more closely resemble the increasingly mosaic face of America. Mindful of this, Vegosen and the USTA invited a very special keynote speaker: Andrés Tapia, president of Diversity Best Practices, the preeminent diversity and inclusion think-tank and consulting firm in the U.S. and author of The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and Transformation of Global Diversity.

After Vegosen introduced Tapia, Tapia shared his advice to the audience on how to generate a diverse, high-performing organization relevant to today's changing environments. Tapia's actionable insights revealed how varying world views are impacting sports, health, wealth, learning, safety and organizational performance in 2011. Therefore, innovative approaches are required to foster inclusive environments across the organization, to help the USTA move beyond "Diversity 1.0" and into the next generation of global, profitable and sustainable diversity results.

The next morning attendees flocked to the main ballroom once more to take part in a revolutionary new session based around 10 and Under Tennis: "Seizing the Opportunities: 2011 & Beyond." The session was led by:

- Gordon Smith, USTA Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer
- Patrick McEnroe, USTA General Manager, Player Development
- Kurt Kamperman, USTA Chief Executive, Community Tennis
- Sue Hunt, USTA Managing Director, Marketing

In their hour-and-a-half of informative presentations, Smith provided an overview of USTA highlights from 2010 along with the challenges and opportunities that 2011 will bring. This includes the rule change requiring that tournaments for kids ages 10 and under be played using slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, on smaller courts and utilizing shorter, lighter racquets. The rule change follows the International Tennis Federation’s recent rule change and will apply to all USTA-sanctioned events, taking effect on January 1, 2012.

As head of USTA Player Development, McEnroe updated the audience about newfound efforts to develop future American champions, while Kamperman provided an overview of the USTA’s vision, goals and key strategies for 10 and Under Tennis as well as highlighting the significant progress made to date.  Hunt revealed many of the upcoming national marketing and promotional campaigns for the USTA, including 10 and Under Tennis and the 2011 US Open.

The need to maximize resources and performance is a vital priority, but Vegosen also wanted to ensure that attendees had fun. Once committee meetings and elective sessions ended for the day, evenings at the Annual Meeting were filled with opportunities to network and socialize while enjoying delicious dinners and music planned by USTA First Lady, Mrs. Shari Vegosen.

On Sunday afternoon, the annual USTA Awards Luncheon featured Volunteer Service Awards handed out to 57 honorees celebrating their national service to the USTA, along with 11 special award recipients recognized for their dedication to growing the game. For more information about the 2011 Annual Meeting Awards, check out our full recap of the ceremony.

Sunday afternoon the annual Section Showdown tennis tournament was held, pitting all 17 sections against one another in a team competition until only one was left standing. USTA Middle States claimed the crown over USTA Missouri Valley for 2011. 

As a last attraction for all attendees before checking out of the hotel and heading home, the closing luncheon featured USTA Serves President Mary Carillo interviewing former world No. 1 player and current U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. A four-time Grand Slam champion, Courier answered questions about his illustrious career, winning his very first Davis Cup tie as captain in Chile in March, and his thoughts about the upcoming quarterfinal tie against Spain July 8-10, in Austin, Texas. Both Carillo and Courier were enthralling and entertaining.

Between now and the 2012 Annual Meeting - scheduled March 17-19 in Carlsbad, Calif. at the La Costa Resort & Spa – it is clear that big changes are forthcoming and that now. More than ever, the USTA needs for volunteers and staff to work closely and collaboratively together to see that these changes meet positive outcomes. For more information about volunteering with the USTA, check out USTA/Volunteering/Volunteers.