2004 Junior development champion of the year: Emma Hubbs
In the small city of Dixon, Ill. (population 16,000), it’s likely anyone involved in tennis is familiar with Emma Hubbs. Aside from teaching at the Dixon Park District for 57 years, her name is stamped on the Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic, Emma Hubbs Tennis Center and Emma Hubbs Tennis Courts in Page Park.
Now 75 years old, Hubbs’ only concession to age is deciding to step down as head coach of the Dixon High School boys’ tennis team. She still serves as assistant coach of the girls’ team, a role she has held for 14 years.
“I don’t mind being on court [with the boys]; I just don’t like the paperwork,” Hubbs says. “Give me a bucket of balls, and I’ll still outrun them.”
For her tireless efforts to grow the game in Dixon, Hubbs is RSI’s 2004 Junior Development Champion of the Year.
Debra Carey, executive director of the Dixon Park District, says Hubbs manages the entire indoor and outdoor tennis operation, ranging from the Tiny Tots program for 3- and 4-year-olds to excellence clinics for competitive juniors and adults. “Emma brings sunshine every day with her optimistic spirit,” says Carey, who has worked with Hubbs for 17 years. “We have a small staff, and if we’re short a secretary, she’ll even help answer phones. She’s always cheerful, always happy to do what needs to be done.”
“When you think of tennis in Dixon, you think of Mrs. Hubbs,” says Mark Saunders, executive director of the USTA Midwest Section, who saw her impact on junior tennis first-hand while growing up in nearby Rockford, Ill. “She’d bring busloads of kids from Dixon to play our tournaments in Rockford, and she still works just as hard getting everyone she can to pick up a racquet.”
In fact, he added, her unwavering commitment to the game is part of the reason why the Dixon Park District this year received a $1,000 Tennis in the Park grant from the Midwest Section and National Recreation and Park Association.
A lifelong resident of Dixon, Hubbs says she grew up hitting against the backboard and chasing balls for older players. After graduating from Dixon High in 1947, she joined the Dixon Park District, working in the office and teaching tennis. Her promotion in 1956 to supervisor was, she says, “for the birds. I wanted to teach, not get in my car and check on people.”
While her three children are proud of their mother, says her son, Ed Hubbs, tennis director for the City of Omaha, Neb., they wish she wouldn’t work so hard. Last February, for instance, she missed seeing her granddaughter, Cameron Hubbs of Omaha, claim a USTA Girls’ 14s singles title when she returned home to teach her regularly scheduled lesson.
Having attained her goal — and then some — of teaching the sport she loves for 50 years, Hubbs claims she will retire at age 80.
“I keep thinking I should slow down. Then I wonder, why? I just love being around the kids,” she says. “I’m just giving back.”
Hubb’s Tips for Success
- Pitch in and help when and where needed, even if it’s not your job.
- A cheerful attitude helps inspire those around you.
- Dedication and commitment to the program will pay off through recognition, grant money, etc.
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of Tennis Industry magazine.