Going the Distance
For this industry observer, the dedication of one longtime volunteer serves as an inspiration for all involved in tennis.
If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s being short-sighted. For that reason, I’ve grabbed quickly and held onto the lesson that tennis can affect the human condition not only in the physical sense, but emotionally as well. I knew that tennis is one of the many ways that our society can stay active and fit, but I’ve learned that the sport’s effect can run even deeper. Tennis is a unifier and confidence booster, at times when people, especially the young, need it the most.
That idea became especially real to me after talking with Dee Henry, the head coach of women’s tennis at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif. Dee received the USTA Eve F. Kraft Community Service Award in February, and for good reason. In her more than 25 years at the university, she has grown and improved the facility upon which she was hired to coach, and invoking the adage “build it and they will come,” she has shepherded scores of new players to the tennis courts as one of Southern California tennis’s most notable volunteers.
The accomplishments of the players she’s coached in the NJTL, Wheelchair Tennis, Challenger Tennis, and other programs at Biola are great. Players have gone through the programs to become high school and college players, nationally- and internationally-ranked tennis aces, Special Olympics medal winners, coaches, and teaching pros. Yet Dee (right) is modest about her role in the achievements, having in conversation chalked up her players’ successes to their own athleticism.
Her tennis mission, she says, is “to provide opportunities and guidance to individuals as they pursue their tennis dreams.” It’s a noble mission, and just as inspiring is her attitude toward the hard work and dedication she’s expended for more than two decades. “I don’t get paid for this in dollars, but I sure get paid back in peoples’ gratitude,” she told me. “If I can help somebody, my living will not be in vain. I love doing what I do.”
For me, it calls to mind a quote from Arthur Ashe, one that I used for my college entrance essay, by which I was greatly inspired but at the time didn’t realize would be so relevant just a few years later, when I saw it inscribed on a wall at the US Open on my first day of work as a tennis writer. “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life,” Ashe said. Dee is a shining example of the truth of this statement. Her use of the resources she has at Biola to enhance the lives of others as a volunteer when the school day, or year, ends should inspire others in the industry to do the same.
Yes, making a living is important, especially today when the cost of living can be disheartening. Yet so is making a life. While it may not bolster your bottom line, imagine what affordable, accessible, and exciting tennis programs could do to bolster a young child’s confidence and happiness. Now, imagine the many potential outcomes of your extra time and work as a local tennis volunteer — among them the development of frequent players, future teaching pros, and even champions.
As teaching professionals, facility managers, and others involved in this industry, many of you have at your disposal the courts, equipment, and know-how to run a successful tennis program. Even if it’s only an hour a week, any way that you could volunteer time and resources to foster a love of the game in a player will have a ripple effect, one that could reach hundreds or thousands of people in a lifetime.
Take the time to think of how you can use your time, talent, and resources to help build the lives of the next generation of players. Be farsighted. It may not be your best source of revenue, but, like Dee, you’ll be paid in endless supplies of gratitude.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.