USTA Section of the Year
The USTA Pacific Northwest section is the largest section in the country— geographically. Washington, Oregon, Alaska and northern Idaho all fall within its borders. But in regards to population, the section doesn't have much to work with; as section President Peter Kram points out, more people live on Long Island, N.Y., than in Pacific Northwest.
Still, that doesn't stop the section from spreading the word of tennis to the population they do serve. “They get out and reach a lot of people,” says Kirk Anderson, the USTA's director of community play. “It's a small section, but they've done a really good job of outreach and getting things started. They squeeze a whole lot more out of their budget and people.”
For the standout work they do in a challenging region, Pacific Northwest has been named RSI's Section of the Year for 2004.
According to Pacific Northwest Executive Director Bill Leong, membership and participation in the section has grown 35 percent in the past five years. “We weren't focusing on growing membership, we were just focusing on serving our community to the best of our means,” Leong says. “We try to understand and listen and try to cater to what our players want, instead of trying to push an agenda.”
Leong and Kram both attribute the section's success to a dedicated team of volunteers and paid staff that work together. “We have a very strong, effective volunteer and staff partnership, exceeding what either could produce separately,” Leong says.
“We have great teamwork between our staff and volunteers,” Kram says. “A good section is like a dining room table— take away one leg and it doesn't stand anymore.”
But Leong adds that great effort comes from the top, too. “We have the best board of directors of volunteers that I've ever worked for. They're very diverse in their skill set, and none of them have any agenda other than to work hard to fulfill the mission. Couple that with very passionate foot soldiers out there in our tennis community— our leaders, facility managers, teaching professionals—who are all on the front line working hard to provide the best opportunities for players to participate in the sport for a lifetime. I'm very blessed and proud to be associated with an organization like this.”
Anderson agrees that the staff has much to do with the section's success. “They're hardworking, and they have the right focus of just trying to generate as much tennis interest as possible,” he says. “I like the energy when I'm out there. They're constantly on the go and excited about what they're doing.”
USTA Pacific/NW Tips for Success
• Hire skilled, competent staff.
• Find experienced, knowledgeable volunteers and put them in policy-making roles.
• Reach out and engage your field volunteers. They're the ones who will bring you new players.