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Tellico Lake Tennis Association

Organization and History

 

The initial efforts to form the Tellico Lake Tennis Association (TLTA) were started around 2003, approximately two years before the Association received its corporate recognition from the State of Tennessee and the IRS.  A study group of Tellico Village residents consisting of Ray Barrett, Fred Bonney, Lynn Brinkley, Larry Burkholder, Georgian Rogers, and Cheryl Ottaviano was formed to explore the tennis needs and desires of Tellico Village and the surrounding communities and counties.  The end result was the Tellico Lake Tennis Association, an association with the following mission statement;

“To Promote the sport of tennis in East Tennessee by providing

education, programs, and events for persons of all ages and

backgrounds who can enjoy the sport of tennis for a lifetime”.

 

This mission statement provided an umbrella for the many activities the Association intended to conduct, not only for the residents of Tellico Village but for the other planned communities along the shores of Tellico Lake as well as surrounding counties.

 

In October, 2005, TLTA became an approved non-profit corporation by the State of Tennessee; and in April, 2006, the Association was granted a non-profit 501c3 corporate charter.

 

The first Board of Directors consisting of James Bogan, Fred Bonney, Lynn Brinkley, Lisa McDonald, Cheryl Ottaviano, Jerry Veino, and Bob Wright met to elect the first corporate officers;

        President, Barbara Iskander

        Vice President, Lynn Brinkley

        Secretary, Alysia Williams

        Treasurer, Carol Williams.

 

Since its founding TLTA has had the following Presidents through 2016;

        Barbara Iskander (2006)

        Lynn Brinkley (2007, 2008, 2009)

        Fred Bonney (2010, 2011)

        Bob Ambler (2012, 2013)

        Bob Rice (2014)

        Larry Byrkit (2015, 2016)

 

 

 

The Association obtained an Organizational Membership in USTA which allowed TLTA to conduct USTA leagues and also made the Association eligible to request and receive USTA Grants.  TLTA received an initial grant of $5,800 to cover start up costs and program promotion.

 

TLTA began running USTA Junior, Adult, and Senior leagues very successfully, leading to ten teams crowned State Champions. One team won the Southern Sectional Championship going on to compete for a National Title.

 

TLTA partnered with Loudon High School during a coaching transition to help maintain the boys and girls tennis teams.  At the request of Steekee Elementary School, an after -school tennis program was started.  This program led to the creation of two other teams in the area, and “Age 10 and Under” tennis competition was conducted.

 

As the activities regarding TLTA became publicized, additional requests for tennis instruction came to the Association leading to programs at the Tellico Plains Boys & Girls Club as well as Sweetwater Parks and Recreation.  The program in Sweetwater led to a teacher from Sequoyah High School learning to play tennis and forming a tennis team at the school with the assistance of TLTA.

 

Members who helped with the Boys & Girls Club program initiated school programs at Rural Valley Elementary School in Monroe County and worked as volunteer coaches improving the McMinn Central High School tennis teams in McMinn County.

 

While running these programs for organizations in three different counties, TLTA provided playing opportunities for local citizens in these and other surrounding counties.  The Association has also conducted very successful local leagues not affiliated with USTA, and in some years, TLTA leagues have served more than 100 Adult and Senior players.

 

At the annual USTA State Conference, TLTA has often been recognized as one of the leading tennis organizations in the State.  TLTA has received two “Outstanding Organization of the Year” Awards, five times was recognized for its “Outstanding Media Efforts” in promoting tennis, twice recognized for having the “State Volunteer of the Year”, and three times recognized for “Volunteer Service.”  The TLTA USTA leagues have been recognized four times for having the “Highest percentage of growth in the State for both Adult and Senior leagues.”

 

TLTA membership peaked around 2011 and 2012 with about 145 members.  TLTA became widely known for sponsoring numerous highly competitive USTA leagues which became a big draw for members from surrounding areas including Knoxville.  Only about 50% of TLTA’s membership consisted of residents of Tellico Village.

 

Around that same time, USTA made substantial changes in their program and philosophy.  They began to focus on expanding youth tennis.  Age brackets were consolidated for Adult and Senior tennis and the majority of existing USTA members’ ratings were pushed up a notch.  Many USTA players felt they had fewer options and were uncomfortable being forced to play at a more competitive level.  They perceived a lack of attention from USTA toward Adult and Senior tennis in favor of youth tennis, and they quit participating in USTA tennis.  This became not only a local problem for USTA but was a National problem as well.  As a result, TLTA lost members who resided outside of Tellico Village since they no longer had a reason to drive to this area to play tennis.  TLTA continues to have strong interest in local leagues, but total membership has declined substantially as a result of the loss of many USTA players.  It is now difficult to conduct local USTA leagues due to a shortage of USTA players. 

 

In addition, interest in tennis has been declining for several years throughout our country, and East Tennessee is certainly no exception to that fact.  The primary TLTA footprint consists almost entirely of seniors; and as seniors age, the Association naturally loses a few members each year through attrition.  At one time, TLTA was successful in developing youth tennis through an outreach program in the schools in neighboring communities.  At that time, the Association had a talented CTA Coordinator, Fred Bonney, who was capable and willing to go into those schools to teach and expand the sport of tennis.  Unfortunately, health issues forced him to retire in 2014.  TLTA continues to search, but at this time, there is simply no one available to replace him within the Association’s all-volunteer organization who is qualified to commit the same time, energy, and skills to this position.

 

TLTA has struggled to find a successful formula for growth for the past several years.  The Association continues to serve approximately 80 dedicated players in 2016, and 90% of them live in Tellico Village.  Surveys have been taken and many strategies have been implemented designed to retain and attract members.  The current TLTA program is built on successful local leagues, socials, and clinics which appear to be the areas of interest to our membership.  TLTA’s program is evolving and adapting to the current times where we live and operate.  Like any other all-volunteer organization, this Association is only as successful as the members make it.  TLTA membership is open to all residents of East Tennessee and the Association is committed to continue marketing and promoting membership to all of those interested in the sport of tennis.

 

Updated March 1, 2016

 


 
 
 
 
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