Courtesy of the ITA: SKILLMAN, NJ (Dec. 15) -- The Intercollegiate Tennis Association and United States Tennis Association have announced the 2012 ITA Collegiate Varsity Performer of the Year Award and ITA Collegiate Varsity Volunteer of the Year Award winners.
Julie Bliss received the ITA Collegiate Varsity Performer of the Year Award and Jennifer Reinbold was named ITA Collegiate Varsity Volunteer of the Year. Both individuals will receive a travel stipend to attend the 2012 ITA Coaches Convention at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples, Fla., where they will be presented with their awards during the USTA Luncheon.
Bliss, the Director of Competition & Player Development for the USTA Eastern Section, has been an exemplar in promoting collegiate tennis in her area. One of the major events Bliss runs and organizes is the USTA Eastern College Showcase Day which features some of the top junior players in the USTA Eastern section. This year 150 high school students attended the showcase along with over 50 collegiate coaches from NCAA Divisions I, II, and III. “It gives high school players the opportunity to meet a lot of college coaches” said Bliss.
Always looking to grow the showcase, Bliss took the initiative to add high school juniors to the formerly all senior showcase. Bliss has also added a new dimension to the showcase by bringing in guest speakers which has been beneficial for players, parents and coaches. This past year, Bliss brought Eric Butorac, a former NCAA singles champion and current men’s tennis assistant coach at Harvard University, to speak at the showcase. She also had representatives from NCSA Athletic Recruiting on site to give a presentation about ‘The 5 things to know and the 5 things to do’ about college recruiting. “It’s an overall benefit for everyone to bridge that connection of scholastic sports and collegiate programs in the area, doing whatever we can to get their programs active.”
In addition to running the USTA Eastern College Showcase Day, Bliss has also played a key role in encouraging college campuses to get involved in hosting USTA/ITA partnership programs, especially Campus Showdowns; Campus Showdowns are one-day, short format tournaments open to juniors, college players, professionals and adults. In the past year, Bliss has helped host several Campus Showdowns at St. Bonaventure, Stevens Institute of Technology, RPI, Hobart William Smith, and Siena.
Working with college coaches, Bliss successfully led the way for two Adopt-a-Regional initiatives; one at West Point and the other at William Smith. The Adopt-a-Regional initiative consists of a USTA section selecting an USTA/ITA Regional Championship to support by means of recognition and representation of players and coaches while encouraging the community to support the teams and players. She also has hired several college coaches to coach junior teams at national team events. Looking ahead, Bliss has begun working with Fairleigh Dickinson University to host a Campus Kids’ Day, and is looking to more schools to participate in this outreach initiative.
“I believe that playing tennis adds a dimension to your college experience” said Bliss, who along with her sister, both played collegiate tennis. “I played college tennis at the University of Albany and my sister played at Marist, so for us, it just added to our college experience.”
Reinbold, a USTA Midwest Collegiate Varsity Sub-Committee member, has been a leader in promoting tennis programs in the Midwest section. One of Reinbold’s major efforts was the Adopt-a-Regional initiative for the 2012 USTA/ITA Division III Men’s Central Region Championships in Indiana. Reinbold served as the lead tournament committee member involved in “adopting” the regional event. She was instrumental in helping coordinate the event, getting additional volunteers to help out, and went as far as housing more than 10 athletes during the event. “Tennis is what I know, I loved the whole experience of it” said Reinbold. “It may be volunteer work but it’s so rewarding.”
Her work in the USTA Midwest also includes organizing college information nights in the Central Indiana District. “I have a son playing at Case Western in Cleveland and I have gone through the college process but at the time I didn’t know much about the process” said Reinbold. “So I thought if I didn’t know, then others probably don’t know. I felt like the information nights weren’t reaching the number of students that want to play college tennis.” Since heading the college information nights, Reinbold has seen a substantial growth in attendance, raising attendance to over 70 people.
A South Africa native, Reinbold grew up playing tennis, eventually making her way onto the ITF and pro circuit before getting married and having children. “When my kids were born I was just involved in every level of tennis” said Reinbold, she continues “I’ve seen how my son has grown by playing college tennis and I’m just excited to help other kids.”
An annual event since 1985, the ITA Coaches Convention is one of the best professional development opportunities for collegiate tennis coaches today. Nearly 300 men's and women's college tennis coaches at all levels gather each year for the four-day Convention, highlighted by some of the most influential people in the sport of tennis.
In addition to offering clinics, panel discussions, an awards banquet, a trade show and a chance to exchange ideas, the ITA Coaches Convention serves as the venue for the association's annual meetings, which includes Board of Directors, Operating Committee and Roundtable sessions.
About the ITA Collegiate Varsity Awards presented by the USTA
The ITA Collegiate Varsity Performer of the Year, presented by the USTA is awarded to a USTA section staff person who encourages, promotes, organizes and executes campus and community tennis programming while working closely with ITA member varsity coaches, colleges, and universities. Specifically, this award recognizes staff members who help coaches host Campus Showdowns, host Campus Kids’ Days, become recognized Campus QuickStart providers and who in additional lead Collegiate Information Sessions, Showcases and Forums.
The ITA Collegiate Varsity Volunteer of the Year Award, presented by the USTA is awarded to a USTA volunteer who provides a leadership role in encouraging, promoting, organizing and executing campus and community tennis programming while working closely with ITA member varsity coaches, colleges, and universities. Specifically, this award recognizes the significant contributions in helping to promote varsity tennis through supporting Campus Kids’ Days as well as other outreach events and Collegiate Information Sessions & Forums.