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Cari Buck, USPTA Vice President

So here I am, fresh off the national board meeting of 2018. It is going to be a big year for the USPTA and as members, you can be assured that this team will be working hard for you and working to make the USPTA the best organization it can be.

When I was asked to write this article, I thought what should I write about?  After thinking about it a few days, it became clear. Write about something I’m passionate about; you can’t go wrong that way, right?

Many of you who know me know I am passionate about wheelchair tennis. As I think back throughout my career, as well as my childhood…it is not just about wheelchair tennis; it is actually about giving back.  My parents were very big on giving back, my father especially.  When I was only about 14, he already had me out on the courts working with the little kids.  It wasn’t just me; it was all the kids in the program. As soon as our lessons were done, the older kids went out and helped teach the younger ones.  Giving back, paying it forward…call it what you want, but it was a way of life in the Buck household.

When I first started working with wheelchair players, I was just a year out of college; teaching at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch in Maui. While I had years of experience teaching at our family club; when it came to wheelchair tennis I did not have a clue and I had no idea what to expect.  Talk about being out of your comfort zone. I was totally intimidated as the players came rolling out on the court. What was I going to do with a bunch of guys in wheelchairs, how were they going to play tennis?  I was in for a surprise…these guys could play, these guy were athletes!   I learned so much about wheelchair tennis from them… they helped me learn to play in a chair, which really helped me understand the game so much better and they taught me how to best coach them. I soon realized that while they were learning topsin and strategy from me I was learning way more from them…I learned about appreciating what I had, staying positive and focusing on what I could do and not what I couldn’t do. Those Saturday afternoon sessions soon became my favorite part of the week, and to this day I still appreciate the amazing impact it had on me.   

US Promotions Director  for Wilson Racquet Sports, Tim Buwick once told me, we are all so lucky, “we work in the toy department of life.”  For me as I’m sure for many of you, tennis has given me so much. I have met so many amazing people, I’ve had fantastic experiences, I’ve been places I never thought I would go, I’ve learned so much and I’ve had so much fun…all because of tennis. And now it is my passion to do my best to give those experiences to others.  It is interesting to look back and realize that so many of these great memories are directly related to my work with wheelchair athletes. Being able to bring tennis to a population that never thought they could play a sport, let alone excel at it, is incredibly rewarding. 

Sit back and think for a minute about all tennis has given you.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could help someone else have those same experiences?  As coaches, we give back to our students every day, but having been there myself, I know the daily grind can become monotonous at times and we can lose perspective.  So step out of your comfort zone and try something new, take on a new challenge and mix things up.  There are so many great organizations to get involved with…Special Olympics, ACEing Autism, Wounded Warriors, not to mention an abundance of local organizations.   If you get the opportunity to spend time working with one of these organizations, jump at it…you won’t be sorry.

The USPTA Foundation is another way to give back. Our Foundation has awarded over 70 grants to qualified programs across the country, as well as giving back to pros that needed help recovering from natural disasters.   We also recently linked up with AmazonSmile …when you shop on Amazon use the link https://smile.amazon.com/ and choose United States Professional Tennis Association Foundation as your charity. You can also make a tax deductible donation via paypal at uspta.com.  So whether you give back on court or off, you can and will make a difference. “Think big and always give back to the game, in every way you can” - Jim Buck. My dad, my coach and my favorite mixed doubles partner on the planet.*
 
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