Each year, ALTA’s top brass comes together to recognize the organization’s volunteers and to elect new officers. This past November, ALTA’s Board Chairman, Joyce Vance, kicked off the event and was thankful that the meeting was once again back to normal at a nice venue, instead of the virtual meeting which was necessary in 2020 because of COVID-19.
“When my chairperson duties began, I prayed for a speedy term, and I got it,” said Vance. She added that while time really passed quickly, that is no reflection of the Board’s diligence to work on behalf of ALTA’s members.
In the early months of 2021, the ALTA office was still operating in a COVID-19 mode, meaning they were all working from home. In July, the office re-opened, and the full staff returned, with a flexible work schedule. ALTA has had many changes with the office staff. One major change was the retirement of ALTA Office Manager, Diane O’Brien, who retired after 16 years in that role and a total of 24 years of service to ALTA.
“While we could never fill her shoes, 2021 ALTA President, Debbie Gaster, and her committee worked very hard to hire new staff members, Jena Pace and Michelle Camay, to keep the office running efficiently,” said Vance. “I like to commend the new hires for not only carrying out their assigned duties, but also staying abreast of all the inner workings of ALTA League play. She went on to thank O’Brien, Renee Bowen, Joan Appelbaum, Emmy Powell, and Leslie Gersack for their dedication to keeping the organization moving forward during months of COVID restrictions.
Since 2017, the ALTA Board of Directors has prioritized boosting membership and improving members’ experiences. ALTA has succeeded with this on many levels. One of the goals has been to determine how best to market and brand the organization. “I am pleased to share that we have experienced success in those areas by increasing our marketing efforts through social media,” Vance said. “Those efforts include improving the functionality of our website, utilizing the Net News magazine, and improving community outreach with our local tennis professionals and various facilities.” She added, ALTA has five facilities that have 100 or more teams playing on a year-round basis, and we have about 25 clubs/facilities with more than 50 teams playing out of their centers.
ALTA’s member numbers are up in double-digit percentages in all leagues, but one since 2017. Most of our adult leagues are close to our 2017 numbers and most have surpassed 2019 numbers. One of our biggest increases is with our Junior Leagues, as membership is up more than 20 percent since 2019. “We are extremely pleased with the engagement of our members through our social media channels; we continue to recognize our captains and provide incentives for them to seek out new members,” Vance said.
Other key accomplishments include long-range planning to focus on expanding ALTA facilities beyond the five-county area. Research efforts will continue to ensure a solid geographical plan is developed to accommodate as many members as possible while minimizing traffic issues. Work also will continue to enhance members’ experiences on the ALTA website, which includes improvements to the line-up checker.
Vance closed out her speech saying she never pictured herself being at the helm of this organization or standing at the podium. “In the beginning of my volunteer service with ALTA, my plans were to stay for two or three years and move on,” she declared. “Clearly, life had a different plan for me.” As she continued to serve, Vance met so many wonderful people that she realized she really enjoyed the atmosphere of the tennis community and being involved with this organization. Those two or three years have turned into 19 years of service. She thanked the organization for allowing her to serve and singled out Larry Waters and Dorian Jefferson for giving their time and sharing their vast knowledge. Vance also thanked Debbie Gaster, John Lowell, Bill Price, Sandy Depa, Chequetta Allen, Lamar Scott, and Diana Burger for their willingness to serve on the ALTA Board of Directors. “It has been great working with all of you.”
ALTA Treasurer John Lowell then shared a positive report about ALTA’s financial position. “The state of ALTA is sound. The organization is in an excellent financial position with assets roughly equal to three times our annual budget. This is very appropriate for a membership association like ours,” he said. Lowell noted that ALTA had been able to do this because the board had been prudent and conservative in budgeting and in making expenditures. “Nearly all of those expenditures are focused directly on providing an outstanding tennis experience for our members — the most tennis for the lowest dues,” Lowell added. “Because of this, I am pleased to tell you that dues for 2022 will remain at the same level they have been for the last couple of years.”
Another highlight of the evening was the speech given by 2021 ALTA President, Debbie Gaster, who noted the 50th anniversary of league play wrapped up as she completed her term as president. “We began the year with optimism that things would slowly return to normal, and many things have,” she said. “We’ve returned to our original format of best two out of three sets, and we’ve seen some teams and facilities begin to offer food and refreshments again at the matches.”
City Finals are once again being held at neutral sites, she noted, with a slightly modified format to keep spectator loads more manageable. While the pandemic is not over, Gaster said ALTA was appreciative that so many members felt safe playing tennis in their leagues.
She echoed Vance’s point regarding the increase in league participation. “Although our registration numbers dipped a bit following the cancellation of the spring season last year because of COVID-19, it’s been amazing to watch the leagues all rebound this year,” said Gaster, noting that team registration numbers are higher than they have been in about four years. “To me, one of the most exciting things to see is the increase in our Junior Leagues, where team registration is up nearly 20 percent.”
Gaster gave credit to the volunteers for their combined effort to increase membership. “This year, 145 volunteers worked countless hours to facilitate play in the leagues they love,” she said. Many were honored during the evening for their years, (and even decades) of service to ALTA.
Lamar Scott was presented with the Presidential Award from Gaster. Scott takes over the helm of ALTA in 2022. He joined ALTA 30 years ago and is looking forward to his future role as president. “ALTA has been integral to my life,” he said. “I’ve made great friends and fostered relationships in other aspects of the game.” He said he had grown with the organization, as a player and as a volunteer in the last 14 years. He thanked all of the volunteers, which included several vice presidents and past presidents, who helped get him to where he is today. “How I ended up, right here and right now, standing in front of you as incoming president, is an amazing mystery to me. It is an honor to serve you in this capacity, and my ultimate goal is to instill the love I have for ALTA in young players, so maybe in 14 years, one of them will have to give this speech!”
It should be an exciting year for ALTA in 2022.
2021 Award Recipients
Chairman of the Board
Executive Committee President
DIAMOND IN RACQUET
Executive Committee/Board of Directors, First Year
25-Year Hall of Fame
ALTA Gold Pin
20 years of service
15 years of service
Bezel Rope for Coin
10 years of service
Diamond in Coin
Five years of Service
Two Years of Service
2022 ALTA Board of Directors
Chairman of the Board—Bill Price
2020 ALTA President—Sandy Depa
2021 ALTA President—Debbie Gaster
2022 ALTA President—Lamar Scott
The ALTA Foundation President—Rita Maloof
2021 Elected Member—Chequetta Allen
2022 Elected Member—Keri Beck
Secretary/First Vice-President—Linda Shepherd
2022 ALTA Foundation Board of Directors
2022 ALTA Executive Committee
First Vice-President (2022 President-Elect)—Linda Shepherd
VP Men’s League—Mitch Falkin
VP Thursday Women’s League—Karen Sullivan
VP Sunday Women’s League—Susan Levin
VP Senior Day Leagues—Cathy Gonzales
VP Senior Leagues—Gina Clance
VP Mixed Doubles League—John Lowell
VP Junior Leagues—Tammi Copelli
VP Junior Challenge Ladder—Anthony Swatski
VP Special Programs—Lynn Lee
VP Media—Barbara Ingram
President’s Appointee—Dorian Jefferson
2021 President—Debbie Gaster
2020 President—Sandy Depa
ALTA Foundation Rep.—Cameron Turner