30 under 30
Our list of young professionals who will be among those leading this sport into the future is both impressive and inspiring.
When we set out to assemble a list of young professionals in the tennis industry, we were, at first, worried. We’ve long known that we need to bring in more young professionals. The “graying” of the tennis industry is a concern for the future of this sport.
But, although we as an industry haven’t exactly been knocking the cover off the ball when it comes to bringing young adults into the business, many of the younger professionals we do have working to grow this sport are pretty amazing in their own right, as you can see here in our first-ever “30 Under 30.”
Our list contains young adults who work in all parts of this industry, including volunteers in tennis. Not all that surprisingly, for many of these professionals Tennis on Campus was the pathway that led them into the industry; many played on their college ToC team or helped lead — or found — their college’s club team.
While we know there are many more young professionals in this industry who are worthy of attention, we think you’ll agree that this is an impressive, and inspiring, group.
Aramik Allahverdian, Tennis Express
As a buyer for retailer Tennis Express, Allahverdian has gained the respect of sales and account managers across the tennis industry. He’s been with the company for six years, and in that time has worked in various aspects of the business and in many different departments, getting an all-around feel for the complete retail business. But he also has been a full-time student, too (going for a degree in business), in addition to an avid soccer player who competes regionally and nationally. “Aramik is one of the main contributors to the success of [Tennis Express], and in turn, to the success and growth of the industry,” says Lauren Colalillo, the racquet sports national account manager for Wilson. “He is dedicated to serving the customer with the highest level of respect and appreciation, and goes out of his way to accommodate both the manufacturer and consumer. He takes the initiative and is creative, willing, dedicated and passionate about tennis.”
Meghan Angeletti, USTA New England
As a community relations manager for USTA New England, Meghan Angeletti “is always willing to go the extra mile to promote tennis,” says Doug Sime of New Haven Youth Tennis & Education. “Meg is a true professional in every sense of the word.” Angeletti’s territory is southern Connecticut, but she also is the section coordinator for USTA Jr. Team Tennis in New England. Her focus on growing tennis also includes 10 and Under Tennis and USTA School Tennis and she works closely with tennis clubs, park and rec departments, professional events, CTAs, youth service organizations and more. In the five years she has been with the New England section, southern Connecticut has seen a 600 percent increase in JTT participation. Before joining USTA NE, Angeletti, who has a degree in sports management from UConn, worked with the Hartford Fox Force, a World TeamTennis franchise.
Allison Barnett, Head USA
Allison Barnett probably will never admit it, but she has quite a bit of influence in this industry. As Head’s communications and customer service manager, overseeing the daily operations of both areas, she plans advertising and p.r. strategies, creates promotions, develops email and social media marketing strategies, and manages the customer service department. Barnett joined the racquet company in 2007 and was communications manager for five years, before adding the customer service managerial position in August 2012. “Allison has taken the communications department to new levels with her leadership skills and it was a natural step to have her take the customer service role and keep it at industry-leading levels,” says Greg Mason, Head’s VP of sales and marketing. A graduate of Arizona State University, Barnett did an internship with the Arizona Diamondbacks then worked for the Phoenix Suns of the NBA for two years.
Daniel Becker, Babolat
When it comes to tennis marketers, it would be hard to beat the enthusiasm of Daniel Becker, who is the global social media manager for Babolat. A graduate of Kenyon College, where he was captain of the tennis team, Becker worked for Lagardere Unlimited as a player agent for two years before joining Babolat nearly two years ago. “He’s a passionate tennis player,” says Babolat Marketing Director Susan DiBiase. “He initiated employee tennis clinics and loves nothing better than a good lunch workout on the court with the marketing team.” But beyond that, he keeps the buzz going about the Babolat brand. “Daniel is an integral part of our U.S. team,” DiBiase adds. “He’s a natural marketer and ‘idea factory.’ He understands the Babolat culture and really knows how to communicate the brand values to our target consumers. I’m certain tennis runs in his blood.”
Sarah Brooker, Fox Valley Tennis Association
As the Midwest youth team tennis coordinator for the Fox Valley Tennis Association in Wisconsin, Sarah Brooker often has her hands full. Each summer, she coordinates a large 10 and Under Tennis program that attracts more than 100 kids and, importantly, is a product of a key support system that Brooker cultivates with the Fox Cities Racquet Club, the Whitlinger Family, and other groups. She also coaches for the local USTA Jr. Team Tennis program, and she gets high school players involved in helping to coach, too. Recently, says Erika Wentz-Russell, the Wisconsin tennis service rep for USTA Midwest, Brooker coordinated a well-organized Tennis Play Day for nearly three dozen youngsters. With one semester left to finish at Marian College in Fond du Lac, Wis., Brooker is looking to become an elementary school teacher and continuing her passion of working with children. But you can bet tennis will always be a part of her teaching program.
Kasey Connors, USTA Middle States
Kasey Connors joined the USTA Middle States Section in 2008 as a community tennis coordinator, working with school tennis and Jr. Team Tennis programs. Her rise through the section took her to community tennis manager and now to associate director of community tennis, where she oversees the section’s seven full-time tennis service reps, as well as coordinating the school tennis initiative and planning special events. A graduate of the University of Delaware, with an MBA in marketing from Drexel University, Connors is roundly praised for her dedication, energy, motivation, leadership, and much more. “Kasey is a dynamic and creative leader who has fantastic relationships with providers, volunteers, and staff,” says Ben Zislis, the section’s associate executive director. “She is a team player who does whatever it takes to get the job done. USTA Middle States is extremely fortunate to have such a motivated and dedicated person.”
Rob Festa, USTA Eastern
For Rob Festa, it’s all about keeping thousands of players happy and informed. Festa is the manager of tournaments and rankings for the USTA Eastern Section, and he understands that growing the sport is all about serving the customers in the best possible way — and that’s contributed heavily to the growth of competitive tennis in the section. A former customer service rep with Verizon, Festa manages and administers the tournament schedules for more than 15,000 adult and junior players. In addition, he conducts workshops and webinars to keep tournament directors informed of rules, formats and procedures; and he develops comprehensive web material so all competitors and tourney administrators remain well-informed. “Rob’s customer-service skills are exemplary,” says section Executive Director Jill Fonte. “We are so fortunate to have a team member whose practical skills are matched by his work ethic, positive attitude and passion for tennis.”
Kaitlin Flaherty, Methodist University
As the assistant director of the Professional Tennis Management program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., since August 2012, Kaitlin Flaherty wears a lot of hats: teacher, academic adviser, recruiter, social media coordinator, player development instructor, and more. The Texas native graduated with honors from the PTM program in 2011 (she played No. 1 on the Methodist tennis team), then received an MBA from Methodist in December, with a concentration in Organizational Leadership. Among her honors and achievements, she is a USPTA-certified pro, was named Methodist’s woman athlete of the year for 2011-2012, and recently was elected secretary/treasurer of the USPTA North Carolina Chapter board of directors. Flaherty also is heavily involved as a community tennis volunteer. “Kaitlin has done an absolutely wonderful job,” says Tom Daglis, director of the Methodist PTM program. “She is definitely a person to watch.”
Adam Ford, DeWitt Tennis Center
In 2010, when he was 25 years old, Adam Ford was named head pro at the DeWitt Tennis Center on the campus of Hope College in Holland, Mich., and he continues to rack up top-notch experience and credentials. As a teaching pro (he holds the highest ratings in both the PTR and USPTA), Ford has developed several highly ranked juniors in the USTA Midwest Section, and he was named PTR Michigan Pro of the Year in 2011. He was one of the youngest coaches to pass the USTA High Performance Certification Program, and he recently was named the head women’s tennis coach at Hope. Ford also is the founder and owner of Baseline Video LLC, which makes tennis-related videos for the industry. “Adam is an incredible success in the tennis industry, and a rising star who will make a lasting impact in this business,” says Jorge Capestany, manager of the DeWitt Tennis Center.
Amanda Friday, USTA Texas
Amanda Friday grew up on a ranch in the small town of Harper, Texas, playing many different sports. But tennis was her favorite, and with her mother as her coach, she hit the road playing tournaments all over the state. Today, Friday is still traveling the state, but as the tennis service rep covering the Panhandle/West Texas region. “Amanda’s passion for tennis and her ability to network with people and get things done is amazing,” says Mike Carter, the section’s director of community development. Friday has an undergrad communications degree from Texas Tech (continuing a family tradition at that university), where she also received a master’s in corporate communications. She joined the Texas section in 2011 as a 10 and Under Tennis coordinator. “Amanda is the kind of person who never has a bad day, never met a stranger, lights up any room she enters, and makes things happen,” Carter adds.
Leah Friedman, Chicago District Tennis Association
In 2010, Leah Friedman was a co-winner of RSI’s Junior Tennis Champion of the Year Award (along with her colleague Butch Staples). Now, as junior development coordinator for the large Chicago District of the USTA Midwest Section, she continues to be one of the most effective promoters of tennis among youth. Responsible for developing 10 and Under Tennis programs in the Chicago area, Friedman introduces the sport to youngsters at community centers, schools, and nonprofits, in addition to developing and training tennis professionals and recreational staff in youth tennis. Prior to her role with the Chicago District, Friedman was the director of the junior development program at Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago, where she oversaw 600 kids and managed a staff of 16 pros. “Leah conducts 10 and Under certification training workshops for PTR,” says Steve Keller, PTR director of development. “She’s been a terrific ambassador for tennis.”
Vasiliy Guryanov, Midtown Athletic Club
USRSA Master Racquet Technician Vasiliy Guryanov works at the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago, as the director of the stringing department, in addition to being a junior competitive coach. In the tennis world, Guryanov, who was born in Uzbekistan, got his break in 2009, when he won the speed-stringing contest at the IART Symposium (13 minutes, 57 seconds). He was accepted as part of the Wilson Tour Stringing Team in 2010 and now also strings at Grand Slam and other pro events. Even at 29, Guryanov’s experience and skill in the field is recognized by the best — he has presented to his peers at the IART Symposium. “Vasiliy has worked really hard to get to the level he’s at,” says Ron Rocchi, global tour manager for Wilson Racquet Sports. “He’s one of the youngest on my team, but is one of the best. He has a lot in front of him.”
Michael Harper, Tennis Center at College Park
Since June 2012, Michael Harper of Washington, D.C., has been the director of junior tennis at The Tennis Center at College Park in Maryland. At TCCP, he and his team have designed and implemented a new 10 and Under Tennis pathway for both training and competition, and he works closely with senior coaching staff to create a complete pathway for ages 3 to 18. A former USTA tennis service rep, Harper has a psychology degree from Morgan State and holds professional level certifications from both the PTR and USPTA in Adult and Junior Development. He is also a Global TIA Cardio Tennis and TRX Cardio Tennis Master Trainer and speaker. “Michael introduced himself to me a few years ago at the USPTA Middle States Conference, and he was so enthusiastic. I had such a good feeling about him,” says Cardio Tennis National Manager Michele Krause. “He’s really the cream of the crop.”
Blair Henley, TennisNow
Blair Henley has been involved in tennis from a young age, and was one of Rice University’s most successful players, where she held the No. 1 spot in singles and doubles and helped lead the team to the 2006 Conference USA Championship, an NCAA team tournament berth, and a spot in the NCAA individual singles tourney. Now, she serves as an assistant coach for the Rice team, which reached a national ranking of No. 20. But her impact on tennis goes well beyond Rice; she’s involved with Houston’s NJTL community, is a USPTA certified pro, and helped build and promote the Galleria Tennis and Athletic Club. In addition, Henley keeps tennis top of mind for consumers by writing and reporting about the sport for ESPNW.com, World Tennis Magazine, TennisRecruiting.net and TennisNow. Recently, Henley wrote a series of doping stories for TennisNow that helped lead top players to demand the ITF change its procedures for testing.
Carl Hocker, Country Club of Spartanburg
A full-time tennis pro based at the Country Club of Spartanburg in South Carolina, Carl Hocker “teaches juniors tirelessly, seven days a week, traveling on weekends to tournaments around the country,” says one club member. But Hocker still has found time to serve on USTA South Carolina committees (including the junior competition and player development committees) and currently serves on the USTA SC board of directors and USTA Southern Coaches Commission. He coaches Southern Junior Cup, and in 2010 received the USTA South Carolina John Newcomb Pro of the Year Award. He has worked as a coach at competition training centers for USTA SC in 2009 and 2010 and served as a USTA Regional Training Center Coach at the Racquet Club of the South. Hocker, a PTR-certified pro who played college tennis at The Citadel and USC Upstate, coaches each summer for USTA Southern, including with the Boys and Girls 12s Zonals.
Brian Hoggard, Zaino Tennis Courts
Brian Hoggard joined Zaino Tennis Courts in Orange, Calif., in 2006, and has been busy expanding the business of one of the country’s premier tennis court builders (Zaino Tennis was named RSI’s Court Builder of the Year in 2004). As the company’s sales manager, Hoggard not only develops relationships with clients, but he’s also been getting the company more involved with homeowners associations, schools and municipalities. In addition, he’s been developing, researching, producing and offering other products and services, including providing custom surface colors and court logos that Zaino has not done in the past, and expanding the business to include (nano particle) protective coatings.
Meghan Houk, Reffkin Tennis Center
When she was in college, Meghan Houk founded the University of Arizona Club Tennis team, and she’s continued to influence tennis in the Southwest, and nationally. Now the assistant director of tennis and tournament director at the Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson, Houk swings many racquets in the industry. Not only does she direct more than 70 tournaments a year, she’s also a teaching pro and a USTA tournament official, is a pro shop manager, and coordinates staff. In addition, she serves as vice chair of the USTA National Tennis on Campus Committee, chairs the USTA Southwest NJTL committee and is a board member of the Tucson Community Tennis Program, among other positions. “Meghan represents the new breed of tennis industry professional who can use social media effectively, draw in a younger demographic, and run incredibly successful events,” says Glenn Arrington, the USTA’s national manager for Tennis on Campus.
Brandon Jackson, USTA Northern
As director of junior teams for USTA Northern, Brandon Jackson oversees the section’s efforts to provide increased play opportunities for juniors, including Jr. Team Tennis and Tennis on Campus, while also promoting 10 and Under Tennis Play Days. He received a bachelor’s in entrepreneurial management and marketing then a master’s of education in sports management from the University of Minnesota, where he also worked as a tennis instructor. In addition, Jackson participated in Tennis on Campus, including serving as president. (In 2010, Minnesota was named the USTA Northern ToC Club of the Year.) He was a student member of the National Intramural-Recreation Sports Association and received the NIRSA/USTA Institutional Tennis Ace Award in 2007. “Working for an organization such as the USTA has always been a dream of mine,” he says. “I get the chance to combine two of my life’s passions: tennis and youth development.”
Alejandro Justiniani, Sea Colony Tennis Resort
As the head pro at the Sea Colony Tennis Resort in Bethany Beach, Del., Alejandro Justiniani supervises a seasonal staff of 12 pros and teaches players of all ages and levels (including adults, 10 and Under Tennis, Cardio Tennis and high-performance clinics for elite players). A former nationally ranked junior player in Mexico, he played USTA and ITF Futures and Satellite events for four years. Justiniani is a PTR-certified pro and serves as the PTR state rep from Delaware, and in 2012 was named PTR’s member of the year from the state. Sea Colony was named a 2012 USTA Facility of the Year (during his tenure, revenue from junior tennis tripled), and earlier this year, Justiniani was tapped to serve on the USTA Middle States-Delaware District board of directors. “I look forward to continuing to be an ambassador for tennis in the future,” he says.
Susan Klumpner, The ACE Project
The mission of The ACE Project in Chicago is “to promote positive youth development in children ages 5 to 18 through building social and emotional skills, athletic ability and educational fortitude.” Susan Klumpner, a licensed social worker — and a PTR-certified 10 and Under Tennis instructor — co-founded the organization (with Leah Friedman) and now serves as its executive director. Klumpner played tennis for four years in college (she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Grinnell College and a master’s in social service administration from the University of Chicago), and has coached youth players for the past seven years. While her full-time job is as a school social worker in Dolton/Riverdale, Ill., with The ACE Project, she manages the development plan, builds partnerships with community organizations, procures grants and donations, and facilitates tennis camps.
Michael Lynch, University of Illinois
For the 2012-13 season, Michael Lynch of the University of Illinois was named USTA Tennis on Campus National Leader of the Year, which honors the student leader who has made significant contributions to his or her campus club team. Lynch, who graduated in May with a chemical engineering degree and now is in Houston working for Exxon Mobil, was an active member of the university’s club tennis program since his freshman year. The past three years, in a leadership position, he fostered the growth of the club from 30 participants to nearly 70 members, and he led the way in club community service efforts. “Michael embodies the principles we look for in our Tennis on Campus leaders,” says Glenn Arrington, the national manager for USTA ToC. “His passion for tennis and dedication to his teammates and the campus community are second-to-none.”
Ryan Melton, Tennis Industry Association
After graduating summa cum laude from Francis Marion University in 2009 (and as class valedictorian) with a degree in management, Melton joined the TIA as a project coordinator, assisting in the organization’s initiatives and programs. In 2011, he was named project manager, in charge of managing the TIA’s outbound industry communications, social media efforts and research efforts. He also manages the TIA’s highly successful Careers in Tennis initiative, the industry’s largest job board. His role was further extended in 2012, to TIA research & operations manager, and includes deeper involvement coordinating the association’s research efforts and operational management. “Ryan’s been a great addition to the TIA team,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “He has a focused work ethic and is an outstanding young man with a bright future ahead of him.”
LeeAnn O’Donnell, TGA Premier Youth Tennis
TGA Premier Youth Tennis Marketing Manager Lee Ann O’Donnell has been instrumental in TGA’s partnership with the USTA, which has so far resulted in growing the sport in more than 425 schools in the U.S. — in just nine months. O’Donnell’s responsibilities include the marketing strategy and messaging to parents, which often is their first experience with the sport of tennis. She was the liaison between the USTA and TGA, creating the first player pathway for parents and students that included an after-school component. O’Donnell is also responsible for the design and content in TGA’s website, which has become an information hub for new tennis players. “LeeAnn embodies our name — Teach Grow Achieve, TGA,” says company founder and CEO Joshua Jacobs, “and her work is helping to grow the sport on a daily basis.”
Adam Queen, Your Serve Tennis
Retailer Adam Queen serves the hot tennis market in Atlanta. As vice president of Your Serve Tennis, Queen is constantly in motion, addressing things that are happening at the eight store locations, interacting with customers and suppliers, and getting the word out locally about tennis and tennis service. Queen, who plays recreationally, learned to string when he was 14 (he’s an MRT) and helped out the store through high school and college at Georgia Tech, where he holds a degree in management. He’s realistic about retailing today, understanding that while the internet is here to stay, brick-and-mortar stores always will play an important role. “There is value in being where the consumer is,” Queen says. “There is definitely an opportunity for retailers. You can’t just be about giving out product. You have to look at your business and think, why is there a benefit for consumers shopping with me? What can I offer them?”
Ashley Redman, USTA Southwest
Ashley Redman joined the USTA Southwest Section in June 2012 and now is the community tennis manager, overseeing the management and administration of all Jr. Team Tennis, 10 and Under Tennis, and Tennis on Campus programs. She also handles grants, CTAs, park and recs, and more. Prior to joining USTA Southwest, Redman spent a year as the tennis service rep at the USTA Central Arizona district, working with clubs and facilities to develop programming. A New Mexico native, she received a business administration degree from New Mexico State, with a minor in sports marketing — and she helped launch the Aggie Tennis on Campus program and was the team president for three years. “I’m very passionate about the team aspect of tennis,” Redman says. “I’m looking forward to growing the game, especially through providing team opportunities. I really just want to introduce the sport to as many people as possible.”
Evan Smith, USTA Southern California
Evan Smith recently came back home to Southern California to help spread tennis throughout the section. A tennis service representative whose territory is the Inland Empire, Smith grew up in Pasadena. “At 8 years old I fell in love with tennis,” he says. “I competed in Southern California junior tournaments, and played four years of varsity tennis in high school.” Smith graduated from Arizona State with degrees in psychology and sociology — and he helped start the ASU Club Tennis Team, of which he was president for two years. He also won the Southwest Leader of the Year Award in 2010. Smith worked as a TSR for USTA Central Arizona before heading back to Southern California. “It brings me great joy to have the opportunity to share my passion of tennis with others; to help grow the game I love and in the place I call home,” he says.
Jeremy Speicher, Speicher Performance Tennis
When he was 17, Jeremy Speicher started teaching Rally Ball clinics and learning to maintain clay courts. Now, Speicher holds a number of positions in the industry, in addition to his own tennis coaching and management company. The Reading, Pa., resident is certified by PTR and USPTA, is a USTA High Performance coach, and is a USRSA Master Racquet Technician. Named to the USTA Middle States Coaches Commission, he also was the 2012 USPTA Middle States Professional of the Year. Speicher is the director of tennis at White Manor Country Club in Malvern, Pa., co-head pro at Healthplex Sports Club, and the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Albright College. “I live and breathe the game and work hard to make a difference in the lives of my students and the people I come in contact with,” he says, “I look forward to being a major contributor to tennis for years to come.”
Jon Thompson, USTA National
Jon Thompson is one of those unique individuals who, while he works full-time in the tennis industry, also spends vast amounts of his own time promoting the sport and bringing it to the grassroots. A national coordinator for USTA Community Tennis Development, Thompson works closely with Community Tennis Associations, park and rec agencies, and USTA Military Outreach. Importantly, he helps to facilitate the USTA’s investment in the renovation and construction of tennis facilities, which includes grants and services. But out of the office, this University of North Carolina grad continues to walk the walk: He is a founding board member of the Kings County Tennis League, which promotes youth mentorship and community-building in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. The KCTL reaches children from low-income families and currently serves more than 120 youngsters in four housing communities.
Tyson Thompson, USTA North Carolina
As community program and training coordinator for USTA North Carolina, Tyson Thompson’s responsibilities include coordinating and expanding the School Tennis and NJTL programs throughout the state. He works with numerous organizations in an effort to expand youth tennis in after-school and camp programs. In addition, Thompson works with CTAs and other local tennis organizations for carnivals and on-court training sessions. “Tyson’s enthusiasm for tennis and his gift of teaching and encouragement shines forth as he promotes our sport to those who may be trying tennis for the first time,” says USTA NC Executive Director Kelly Gaines. Thompson, who was named an ITA Academic All-American Scholar-Athlete, received a degree in communications from Coker College, where he played on the tennis team and was captain in his senior year. He has a master’s in sport management from West Virginia University.
Brad Wakely, Prince Global Sports
Brad Wakely has an eye for talent. Based in Atlanta, Wakely is the player development manager and a brand manager for Prince Global Sports. Among his national duties, he is responsible for all nationally sponsored junior players in the boys’ and girls’ 12s and 14s, and he attends all national junior tournaments, scouting players for the Prince Tour Team. Regionally, as a brand manager, Wakely travels to different tennis facilities and academies, often putting on demo events or playtesting with everyone from recreational players to elite juniors and professionals. He also contributes significantly to Prince brand promotional activities, including working at the Prince “experience store” in New York City during the US Open. A varsity tennis player at Virginia Tech, Wakely joined Prince in 2011, after spending two years as a tennis pro at the Boars Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.