2014 USTA Arkansas Award Winners
The Herschel Friday Outstanding Junior Award
I was introduced to tennis when I was 7 years old, but did not start competing until I was 11. In my tennis career, I have played over 600 USTA matches, 135 tournaments and 65 high school matches. I have participated on the USTA Zonal and Arkansas Southern Junior Cup teams. I was named Team Arkansas MVP for 2014. My high school career record was 53-12 at Hot Springs Lakeside. Throughout my junior tennis career, I have maintained a high ranking. Currently, I am #1 in Arkansas, top 50 in the USTA Southern Section, and ranked top 400 nationally.
Having won the USTA Arkansas Most Improved Player award in 2011, it is truly an honor and a dream come true to be the 2014 Herschel Friday Most Outstanding Junior Award winner.
I would like to thank the Arkansas Tennis Association, my many coaches and especially my parents, James and Patti, for all of their support in pursuing my goals. I plan to continue playing tennis in college and pursue a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish.
Tennis became a fascination at a very young age for me. At the young age of 11, I dreamt of playing college tennis. That dream came true when I signed for Michigan State University in front of friends and supporters at Valley View High School this fall. My school tennis activities led to 4 State Singles Championships and 2 team titles. The past two years I was the Overall State Tournament Champion and named the All-Arkansas Preps Outstanding Female Tennis Player of the Year. I have also been successful in USTA play. One of my favorite experiences was being a member of Team Arkansas in Southern Junior Cup. My thanks go to every single person in my family, especially my parents and grandparents, for their endless amount of support. I can’t imagine trying to put up with me when I lose. You all have done that for 10 years. Also, thanks to Alan Brogan and my Aunt Sharon Phillips for teaching me to love the game. Thank you Shashank Kulkarni, Jordan Isom, and Nicholas Zogaj for being my hitting partners and teaching me so much about the game. I want to give a special thanks to my coach, Alex Rivas. He told me in the beginning it was going to be a process. Thank you for putting up with me for the past 7 years and being one of my best friends.
The Jay Freeman Most Improved Player Award
For fun I started playing Junior Team Tennis at the age of 12. After a couple of years of JTT, I decided to stop playing other sports and focus on tennis. To improve my skills and become more competitive, I began attending Ozark Tennis Academy (OTA). I began to see a big difference in my skills after increasing my court time and incorporating Cross Fit into my workouts this past spring. My ranking in Arkansas Boys 16s has climbed from #268 at the end of 2013 to #27 as of November 5, 2014. I am honored to receive the Jay Freeman Most Improved Player Award this year from the Arkansas Tennis Association (ATA). Thanks to the ATA for recognizing and encouraging junior players in Arkansas. I would like to thank my coaches at OTA, Jared and Christy Ward, and Beau Basham. I would also like to thank the Bentonville High School coaches. Thank you to my best friend and brother, Doug, for always being by my side on and off the court. Most importantly, thanks to my parents for their constant support and encouragement. I feel very blessed for the opportunities I have been given and am excited to continue improving my game in the years to come.
My tennis journey began when I was 7 years old while watching a local tennis match that my mom was playing. My journey has included clinics, private lessons, camps, and numerous tournaments across the South. Because of great coaches like Alex Rivas and Gary Jones, I have been able to improve my tennis game as well as develop a true love for the game. In January 2013, my 10 and under USTA Southern ranking started at 203 and improved to 2nd just before the Southern Closed in 2014. My USTA Arkansas ranking improved from 15th to 1st in 10 and under from Jan 2013 to June 2014. The highlight of my tennis career has been winning the Arkansas State Junior Closed for 10s and developing some amazing friendships with girls all over the South. I would like to thank everyone who nominated me for this award. The Arkansas Tennis Association, who has been more than supportive of my tennis journey. Most importantly, I would like to thank my parents who have sacrificed their time, money, and effort to support me and my tennis dreams! A special thank you goes to Emily Metcalf for her instruction, support, and for being a role model on and off the court.
Dr. Ted Bailey Sportsmanship Award
I would first like to say thank you to the Awards Committee who selected me for the Sportsmanship Award. I am very grateful and blessed to have received this award. I would also like to thank Manuel Cervantes, for teaching me all I know about the game, from sportsmanlike conduct to technicality and strategy. I would also like to thank Matthew Walters for re-engaging me into the sport after some tough losses in tournaments that I had played. He really helped me get back on my feet, and put me on the right track for success. I would like to thank my parents, for their love and support as I went through my roller coaster ride of the game, but believing in me throughout my career. Achievements that I had made were mostly through the last few years, such as going to Southern’s twice, once for 16s and the other for 18s. I was extremely excited and grateful for those few weeks I got to play with some of the top players in the south! I think a major achievement was just the opportunity to play the game and travel the state and south. Just being fortunate enough to play is awesome.
Shelby began playing competitive tennis at age 10. She was in the top 80’s in USTA Southern 14’s Rankings this past year. This past July, she participated in Southern Zonals and won the Sportsmanship Award two out of the four days of the tournament. This fall, as a freshman participating on Episcopal Collegiate School’s tennis team, she won the first place singles title in both 3A District and State Tournaments. Shelby was also named to the 3A All Conference team in addition to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette All Prep Team. Shelby dedicated her state title to her training partner and friend, Andrew Walls, who was in the hospital at the time.
It is truly an honor to receive the Dr. Ted Bailey Sportsmanship Award, and she would like to thank the Arkansas Tennis Association for recognizing good sportsmanship in junior tennis. Shelby would also like to thank Will Campbell, her coach, and her high school coaches, Andrea Barnett and Lindsay Duncan, for their support. Finally, she would like to thank her parents for the opportunity to play tennis and for their love and encouragement.
Bette Mooty Scholarship
Thomas began playing tennis at the age of eight and has competed in Junior Team Tennis and USTA tournaments since moving to Greenwood, Arkansas in 2006. He was a member of the 2013 and 2014 Arkansas Junior Team Tennis State 18 Under Intermediate Championship teams and also played on the varsity team for Greenwood High School for three years. He was named AAA All State in 2012 and 2013. He has been an active volunteer in various programs through the Western Arkansas Tennis Association. Thomas would like to thank the Women’s Tennis Association of Little Rock for this scholarship as it will assist him in pursuing his goal of obtaining a degree in Economics and continue to allow him to give back to the tennis community.
Margie O' Brien Scholarship
Without tennis in my life, the last twelve years would have been very different. Initially, tennis helped me to cope with the loss of my mother, but now looking back, I wouldn't have the friends, involvement in the community or ambition that I have today. Tennis has taught me endurance, concentration, perseverance, self discipline, and self respect. It has taught me to prioritize my time and tennis has taught me to win and lose with dignity. As a result of my involvement in tennis, I have met people from around the world and have been able to use my love of tennis to benefit others. Thank you Coach Cervantes for keeping me motivated, listening and not giving up on me. A special thanks to JD Hall, Director of Tennis at Pinnacle Country Club for without his support and encouragement the tennis relay fundraiser would not have gotten off the ground. I have been President of NHS and Captain of my high school tennis team during both my junior and senior years. My goals are to achieve an MBA and minor in Business Law and Broadcast Journalism.
Arkansas Tennis Professional of the Year
Thank you to: Our staff professionals Andrew Atkinson, Erica Rogers and London Lundstrom. None of our success would have happened without your belief in what we do and your dedication to our players.
Whitney Ewersmann for your commitment to Junior Team Tennis and the constant help you supplied to help build our program. Chris Stuart for his support and work to expand the game and help launch our program in Fayetteville. Arkansas is lucky to have you and I cannot say thank you enough for what you do.
Brittany Murphy for the marketing tools and help. Cindy, Paula, Deanna, Maureen and everyone at the ATA. Alan Spann at Fayetteville Parks and Recreation for working so closely with us to help build what we have at Wilson Park. Wayne Stehlik, Britt James and Cindy Flores for allowing us to build a program in Springdale.
Taylor Dodds for being such a great mentor. Bill Maxwell for the advice and guidance. Melissa Kelly and WATA for giving me the opportunity at Ben Geren to build my dream program.
Walter and Terri Cash, Katie and Payton Smith for the love and encouragement over all the years. Finally, all my players and parents. Every day I wake up doing what I love with people I care about thanks to you.
Thank you awards committee for this recognition. It means the world to me.
Patrick M. Riley Umpire of the Year
Jennifer hit the ground running after receiving her certification in November of 2012. She has since roved or chaired during 11 ITA matches in Arkansas and called lines at 4 professional Futures and Challengers from Florida to California. She was selected to participate in the Junior Orange Bowl Chair Academy last December where she had the opportunity to chair at the ITF Jr. Event.
In 2014, Jennifer was selected to work 9 days during the main draw at the US Open in New York. She was also a line umpire for the Connecticut Open WTA. Although only a certified umpire for 2 years, Jennifer has established herself as an up and coming national umpire. She is ITA, line umpire and referee certified.
Jennifer would like to thank her mentors Mike Standrod and John Wong (California), her officiating supporters Joe Buys (Utah), Aimee Johnson (Louisiana), and Darryl Daoang (Arizona) and her understanding family including her husband, Bryan Slavens, and daughter, Aubrey.
Arkansas Tennis Family of the Year
The Jake Files Family
The Files Family of Fort Smith is a wonderful family who not only supports USTA programming but was also very instrumental in the creation of the Arkansas Tennis Specialty License plates.
Through Senator Files’ countless efforts, the Bill authorizing the Arkansas Tennis Specialty License plate was passed.
As of September 2014, these plates have been available in DMV offices statewide. The funds raised through the sale of these plates will assist the Arkansas Patrons Foundation in the rehabilitation of tennis courts in communities statewide for many years. This endeavor would not have happened without the efforts and support of Senator Files.
In addition, the Files family has supported USTA programming for both adults and juniors. Michaela has participated in the USTA Adult League programs since 2004. Each of the Files children have been active in both USTA sanctioned tournaments and Junior Team Tennis programs.
Member Organization of the Year
Bryant Parks and Recreation
Tennis in Bryant, Arkansas, is quickly rising with many thanks to the wonderful employees of Bryant Parks and Recreation. In 2013, there was such a large demand for tennis within the community that Bryant Parks and Recreation decided to invest in resurfacing the city tennis courts at Mills Park. Bryant Parks and Recreation is now running its very own Spring and Fall Junior Team Tennis league with plans for Tennis Apprentice programming this Spring. In 2014, they also held their first annual sanctioned tennis tournament for juniors. “The increased traffic to the city courts has sparked a need to continue investing in our tennis facilities at Mills Park as well as at our local schools. Secondly, there is now an increase in recreational programming offered to our Bryant citizens. Being a lifetime sport, tennis is an important activity that every child should have the opportunity to experience and learn in order to stay active throughout life. Thanks to the popularity in our Bryant Parks Youth Tennis League, we have had many coaches and parents push to begin adult programs starting this Fall” mentions Brandon Griffin, Recreation Superintendent for the City of Bryant.
Barbara Brewer Community Service Award
Paul Seegraves is the Boys’ and Girls’ Tennis Coach of Piggott High School. I am deeply honored to receive the Barbara Brewer Community Service Award. Barbara Brewer gave many years of her life to the development of tennis. After learning of her passing, it became even more special to me. My wife, Heather, and children, Emilee and Shawn-Hudson, have also worked with me through the years in promoting tennis in our rural community. At a young age, I learned the values of giving from my Christian faith, family, and others close to me. My Dad introduced tennis to me at age 10 in 1976. Fast forward to 1992, I was approached on coaching high school tennis at Piggott High School. Since then, I have been fortunate to be a part of 16 District Championships, 15 District Runner-ups, 1 State Championship, and 2 State Runner-ups combined for both programs. Since the early 2000s, I have provided summer lessons for kids of all ages. I also run a July summer league for players in four divisions ranging from 1st through 12th grade. The last 6 years, I have provided a free tennis clinic in June for students in 1st -4th grade. I am proud that I was able to enroll approximately 25 students aged ten and under for the free USTA membership. I hope I have led by example by showing the importance of giving back to the sport and the community. It is true that it is “better to give than to receive”.
Adult Tournament of the Year
TreDay.com "Labor of Love" Charity Classic
From everyone at the TreDay.com Scholarship Project, who puts on this amazing event every year on Labor Day Weekend...THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! We are truly humbled and honored to accept this award for the 2nd time in 3 years. The TreDay.com "Labor of Love" Charity Classic has also been selected as the USTA Southern Adult Tournament of the Year!!! (WOW!) The generosity, love, support & recognition from the Arkansas tennis community we have received is just incredible! So, to all the donors, volunteers & especially the players...this one is for YOU! :) Well done!
Junior Tournament of the Year
Southern Closed 16s Championship
Everyone involved with the 2014 Southern 16’s Closed Championship is humbled and appreciative to accept the award for Arkansas Junior Tournament of the Year. The Southern 16’s brought in the best 320 16-year olds in the South to Little Rock for a week of the highest caliber tennis junior tennis can provide. The tournament was fortunate enough to have significant sponsors who were able to provide all players with a free entry fee and two nights free hotel. In addition to that, the tournament provided a one-of-a-kind player tent that was the size of an entire tennis court as well as a first-class player party. The tournament was also able to provide a court-to-official ratio of 2 to 1. Special thanks goes to our tournament committee and all volunteers who made this tournament such a success. A special thank you goes to Stephen LaFrance Jr. for making this vision a reality. The Southern 16’s was fortunate enough to also win the 2014 Southern Junior Tournament of the year. We all sincerely appreciate the recognition that the tournament has received and hope to improve on it for 2015.
Special Tennis Event of the Year
"Keep the Ball in Motion- Rally and Give Back"
“Keep the Ball in Motion - Rally and Give Back” Tennis Relay is a national, one-day, tennis fundraising event for Genomic Cancer Research, founded by Teah L. Flynn.
After seeing a morning show segment on Genome Cancer Research, Teah decided to become involved. She began contacting tennis clubs and coaches around the country to participate in this event. The “First Annual Event” was in February 2013 and coaches from Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and Wisconsin participated. Louisiana, California, and New York are now participating.
FORMAT: Multiple players per hour aimed at continuous back and forth play for 12 hours. Players are encouraged to sign up in teams – it is a relay. PLAYER ENTRY DONATION: $10 (Tax Deductible)
AGE: All ages, all skill levels! PROCEEDS: 100% of all proceeds go to Genomic Cancer Research at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (a 501c Corporation).
For more information on the Keep the Ball in Motion - Rally and Give Back event, please visit www.tennisrelay.org or call Teah 479-444-9922.
2014 State Volunteer Service Award
Joe has been an diligent volunteer for Arkansas Tennis since 2009 and served as President of the Board for not 2 but 3 years for USTA Arkansas. Most of you have seen Joe running a tournament desk in his usual hyper manner or working behind the scenes always encouraging people to start playing tennis or to join a USTA league team. Joe has also served on the USTA Southern Adult League and Marketing Committees.