2008 Grassroots Champion of the Year: Sue Jollensten
A sure sign of success for a community outreach program is when people call organizers for information on how to get involved, rather than organizers searching for volunteers. This is the situation Sue Jollensten of Albuquerque, N.M., now finds herself in as she runs after-school tennis programs for students across New Mexico.
Jollensten started her flagship program, the Governor’s Cup Mid School Tennis Championships, in 1996 to give more children the opportunity to play tennis. This year, nearly 800 students represented their schools during six weeks for matches and an end-of-season tournament. “We had a record year in 2008, which tells me that there’s a need for this sort of program in middle schools,” she says.
In recognition of her efforts, Jollensten has been named RSI’s 2008 Grassroots Tennis Champion of the Year.
The chair of the USTA Schools Committee in 2007 and 2008 (and a 2008 winner of the USTA’s Eve Kraft Award), Jollensten has also launched a high school junior varsity tennis league to promote a continued interest in the sport. And to keep kids playing from childhood on up, she is currently working to establish elementary school programs.
In programs like the middle school league, Jollensten says, “Students have so much fun learning tennis and playing on a team representing their schools. It creates camaraderie and confidence.”
“Sue has been a driving force behind the growth and development of junior tennis in our community,” says Becky Lee, a USTA Southwest Section tennis service representative in Northern New Mexico. “Her grassroots approach has empowered and motivated many community volunteers, parents, teachers, and school administrators to make tennis available to our children.
- Charging a reasonable participation fee, and paying volunteers a small stipend, gives a program more substance and value, and increases commitment.
- Develop a season for the program, so that volunteers know the time commitment.
- Partner with as many people/organizations as possible to promote your program’s growth and longevity.
See all articles by Kristen Daley
About the Author
Kristen Daley is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.