Bobby Williams from the Beach Cities was recently honored as the overall USTA League Captain of the Year at the third annual USTA League Captains’ Luncheon held at Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa. For his story click HERE.
The following is a closer look at the USTA Southern California Captains of the Year by region, as nominated by the Area League Coordinators. The Captain of the Year Award recognizes the best and brightest captains from 13 Southern California areas.
Central Coast: Susan Daymude
For the small challenging area of the Central Coast, Daymude has been called a “life-saver” for league tennis in her area. Her efforts to work with other potential captains and players is unmatched. She spends hours trying to confirm play, set up schedules, as well as trying to convince her private club to allow more play time for all USTA matches. “This is crucial for the survival of USTA leagues on the Central Coast,” said Mari Taylor Area League Coordinator for the Central Coast. “I cannot express the value in having Susan as a captain in my area. Sometimes I want to give up on some of these players and clubs. but Susan’s dedication keeps me motivated to keep trying. She is an awesome captain, very organized, and very thorough.”
Coachella Valley: Doris Hoffman
When Hoffman came to the Palm Springs Tennis Club a few years ago league tennis was just a distant memory. As Hoffman became more involved in tennis she began to play leagues. She started with Desert League and then moved into USTA Leagues. As her interest grew she took on the job as captain and has over the past few years been the guiding force in bringing Palm Springs Tennis Club back into the league family. “It is through Doris’ work that we now have several league teams playing out of Palm Springs,” said Donna Ringer, Area League Coordinator for the Coachella Valley. “Doris mentors the more inexperienced captains, helps them find players and tutors them on using Tennis Link. She alone is responsible for expanding the league program at the Palm Springs Tennis Club.” Hoffman went on to describe Hoffman as a take-charge type of person and when she does something, she does it right.
Inland Empire: Sharon Hebert
Hebert has played on 61 USTA League teams since 2010. She has captained 16 teams since 2013 and three of those were in 2019, according to Amy Ellison, Inland Empire Area League Coordinator. “Many of her teams are Local League Winners where her style is to give all the players on her roster an opportunity to participate at Sectionals,” Ellison said. “She is organized, fair, smart, knows the rules and inquires when she needs guidance.”
Hebert said, “It was such an honor to be nominated for Captain of The Year! I was humbled to be in a room with such highly respected captains from other areas. My players always make my job easy but there are always challenges. Finding players to fill a team and making good pairings for a positive outcome, while working around player’s schedules and getting every player ample play time though out the season is always challenging!”
Los Angeles: Eduardo Rodriguez
Rodriguez is modest in saying he doesn’t think he deserved to be honored as a Captain of the Year for his area. “I really appreciate the award but in all honesty I don’t captain or give back to the community for the award. I do it because tennis is my passion and when I needed someone, there were people who guided me through my career that made a big impact in my life. I want to do the same for the tennis community on and off the court.”
Rodriguez is the boys’ and girls’ coach at South East High School in South Gate, and many of his players also take part in USTA Leagues. “Seeing all the kids compete against adults at the same level is a magnificent view,” he said. “Kids and adults playing against each other equally and competitively – it’s amazing to see everyone having fun.”
Rodriguez began playing USTA league tennis is 2013 at the age of 18 and started to captain teams the following year. He has continued to play and captain teams ever since. “We knew that he coached tennis at a high school in South Gate and wanted his students to experience league tennis,” said Debbie Halim, co-Area League Coordinator for Los Angeles. “That fall he decided to captain a Men’s 3.5 Doubles team comprised mostly of his students who were only 17 or 18 years old. Ever since the boys had a USTA experience, the girls wanted to have one also and they ended up forming a mixed team.”
San Diego/North County: Josie Hendrix
Hendrix has captained as many as eight USTA teams in a one season and did so again in 2019. She has received accolades from her peers and loyal players over the years and has demonstrated exceptional organizational skills. “Over 15 of her players from various teams all submitted her as a nominee for this recognition,” said Randie Lettington, San Diego/North County Area League Coordinator. “She participates in both San Diego and Inland Empire leagues providing playing opportunities for her players in both weekday, evening and weekend leagues.”
One of Hendrix’s players, Mindy Smith, added that Josie’s hard work and dedication to the game and the sport of tennis is unprecedented. “She is always our best leader, cheerleader, counselor, psychologist, mentor, medic and most importantly friend,” Smith stated. “Josie exhibits a high level of sportsmanship; even opposing captions turn to her for advice and direction.”
Another player Suzanne McMichael added: “Josie’s generosity extends beyond the courts. She is always willing to support players going through circumstances of hardship – whether a player is dealing with a health issue or the loss of a loved one, Josie is quick to set up a support chain within the tennis community. Josie’s outward thinking has been passed on to her league players and has made us all better people.”
San Fernando Valley: Dan Meyers
Meyers has been captaining many teams for several years with his main base at Balboa Park in Encino. “He is friendly and never gets complaints from other captains or players,” said Lisa Gillette-Glick, Area League Coordinator for San Fernando Valley. “He is positive, happy, attends all captains’ meetings, plays by the rules and has been very pleasant to work with.”
Meyers added: “I was very fortunate to have an amazing year and experience all of the trips to the different league sectionals with my players. Having an opportunity to be a Sectional finalist was one of the highlights. Hopefully, I was a good mentor to my players, and fellow team captains along with making a positive contribution to the game.”
San Gabriel Valley: Chinna Ponnaganti
Ponnaganti was recognized for his commitment and dedication to his players and heart for tennis year-round. “For nearly 10 years, his passion and dedication to build his own community of players has proved to be successful because he was able to lead his Men’s 3.5 ‘Underdogs’ team to 2018 and 2019 Nationals back to back,” said Christine Wong, co-Area League Coordinator for San Gabriel Valley.
Ventura Country: Mel Welch
Mel Welch has been captaining USTA League teams since he joined USTA about 25 years ago. He has the distinction of captaining a team in every league, every year. One of the area’s most experienced captains, Welch not only spend time captaining his teams, but also works with the Simi Valley Recreation & Park District to schedule times and reserve courts for all of our Ventura County teams that play out of the Simi Valley parks, including Rancho Madera (Wood Ranch) Park and Rancho Simi Park. According to VC Area League Coordinator Mary Gastro, Welch attends every Captains’ Meeting during the year. “He knows all the rules for league play, and there has never been a complaint regarding his leadership or his team players,” Gastro said. “Just the opposite—his players are knowledgeable and loyal to him. We have been most fortunate to have known and worked with Mel Welch”