President's Letter January 2022

January 2022 President’s Letter

It is hard to believe that my two-year term as USTA Kentucky President comes to an end this month.  It has been a great pleasure to serve in this capacity leading our state’s efforts to promote and develop the sport of tennis.  I would like to utilize my final President’s Letter to discuss the effect of the pandemic on tennis, the benefits of tennis, accomplishments during the last two years and to thank numerous people for their efforts.


The last two years have flown by and Kentucky tennis has been both challenged and aided by the pandemic.  Tennis was named by the Texas Medical Association to be the safest sport to play during the pandemic due to the natural physical distancing that occurs.  We saw an influx of new and returning players during the last two years because of safety, but they soon learned why tennis is the most popular individual sport in the world.  Tennis is a very social sport that provides a great workout and can be played by persons of all ages and for a lifetime.  As a Mayo Clinic Proceedings study determined, tennis adds an additional 9.7 years to life expectancy compared to being sedentary.  Tennis provides all of these wonderful benefits, but the most important reason to play is that it is just plain fun!


The USTA Kentucky staff, Board of Directors, and Committee members have many accomplishments to celebrate from the last two years.  I am so proud of how we responded to the pandemic by lobbying state and local governments to open up tennis courts and the “Tennis Starts with Love” initiative provided much needed financial support to our tennis professionals and officials at the start of the pandemic. We were one of only three Southern section states to hold state championships in 2020.   The Kentucky tennis facility database project was completed by the Board in 2020 and provided valuable information to assist communities with programming and grants.  The Kentucky Tennis Summit brought tennis stakeholders from all areas of tennis together with Board members to brainstorm and then implement ideas to grow tennis in Kentucky.  The history of Kentucky tennis is more accessible now that our tennis yearbooks dating back to 1980 are posted on our website.  With Tennis Link set to expire at some point, we were able to save past Creason and Adult league tournament results before they were no longer available to retrieve. Our highest-level professional women’s tournament ever occurred as a result of the pandemic.  The Top Seed Open was the first U.S. WTA tournament after a pause of several months and attracted the very best women players in the world to Nicholasville in August of 2020. 


The accomplishments continued during 2021.  The USTA KY Board heard a presentation from Cee Jai Jones, Director of Diversity, NJTL and Grants for USTA Southern.  Her presentation on “Leading with Intent: Strengthening the Board’s DEI Commitment” was well received by the Board and provided us with a roadmap to improve our efforts in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion.  The Board named Sonya Harward as our Board of Directors Diversity and Inclusion Champion.  Our Parks and Recreation Subcommittee developed a pilot program called “Tennis in the Parks”.  Grants were given to Parks and Recreation departments to help cover the costs of developing tennis programs in public parks.  The program is being copied at the Sectional level. USTA Kentucky’s on-court banner campaign “Lode the Code” was developed by our Manager of Marketing and Communications, Kim Lonnemann.  The signs and banners were placed at public park courts around the state to provide information to new and returning players by loading the QR code.  The idea has been replicated by USTA Southern and USTA National has shown interest.  Overall USTA League participation was up 19% over 2020 and 2% over 2019.  The Tri-Level Southern Sectional Championships were held again this year in Louisville and saw an increase of 11% participation compared to 2019.  We had four league teams advance to Nationals with the Louisville Mathes team finishing as runner up in the National Men’s 18 and over 4.5 Championships.  Our social league program known as “Drop Shots” continued to expand.  In regards to junior tennis, the Creason tournament showed increased number of participants in 2021, the after-school tennis in the parks expanded in Louisville and the Junior Team Tennis season was successful with the 14U Intermediate team coached by Tim Dethridge from Bowling Green winning a rare Sectional Championship for Kentucky.  The Warren County Tennis and Sports Facility opened in November.  The partnership between the Warren County Fiscal Court, Warren County Parks and Recreation and the Southern Kentucky Tennis Association (SOKY) is remarkable and hopefully will serve as a blueprint for other community tennis associations and local governments.  The facility boasts 6 indoor courts, 6 outdoor courts, meeting rooms, a tennis themed play area for children, a lounge and an office for SOKY.  The six-court facility at Bob Amos Park in Pikeville was reconstructed and opened in November.  The courts will be utilized by the University of Pikeville and four local high schools.  Although we were deeply saddened by the death of Julie Ditty Qualls, one of our all-time great Kentucky tennis players, the establishment of the Julie Ditty Qualls Foundation will ensure her memory lives on by providing free youth tennis lessons and establishing new hiking and biking trails. 

We are blessed with an incredible staff at USTA Kentucky which I have been privileged to become better acquainted over the last two years.  They all love tennis and go above and beyond what is in their job description to serve tennis players in Kentucky.  Please join me in thanking Executive Director Jason Miller and his staff over the last two years: L.J. Alara, Stacey Croley, Bryan Hash, Kathy Klein, Marcia Littlefield, Kim Lonneman, Maddie Notoris and Taylor Urquhart.  Also, thanks to Tim McCullum, our Southern Section Tennis Service Representative.  I would be remiss if I didn’t comment further on Jason Miller.  We have talked, texted and emailed almost daily during the last two years.  He is a great leader for Kentucky tennis and we are fortunate to have him as our Executor Director. Many thanks to the USTA Kentucky Board of Directors for your servant leadership.  It has been wonderful working with all of you.  I would also like to thank President Elect Leony Barroso for his tremendous leadership and wish him well as he transitions to USTA Kentucky President.  The future for Kentucky tennis is bright!


At Your Service,

Mike Eden

USTA Kentucky President