Throughout Women’s History Month in March, USTA MAS will be profiling the work of women who are making a difference today in tennis communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic. As local league ambassadors, the two women featured this week are the most important part to keeping their local adult leagues running like a well-oiled machine. Hayley Hughes is the local league ambassador for Montgomery County and also serves as executive director for the Montgomery County Tennis Association. Alice Hume is the local league ambassador for Northern Virginia.
What is your tennis background? When did you start playing?
Hayley: I started playing tennis when I was 8 years old through the park and rec, where I played in a group clinic. I started playing USTA tournaments at age 11 and continued to play through high school earning rankings in the Middle States Section. I played collegiate tennis at the University of Pittsburgh for 4 years and had the opportunity to travel to places that I had never been.
Alice: I started playing as a child. I played in college for the University of Arizona and played several times in the US Nationals, the forerunner of the US Open. I was also part of the National Junior Wightman Cup Squad, which would be like Junior Fed Cup. I Have played tournaments and league tennis for years. My four sons played tennis through high school and college, so I became very involved with Junior Tennis.
Who or what inspired you to get involved in tennis?
Hayley: My parents inspired me to play tennis, although they did not play tennis themselves. They just always loved the sport!
Alice: I got started in tennis playing against a wall as a young child but really got hooked when my mother took me to the finals of the US Nationals to see Althea Gibson and Ashley Cooper win the Championships. I wanted to play at Forest Hills some day as well!
Which professional player has been most inspirational for you?
Hayley: I grew up watching Steffi Graf. I really admired her calm demeanor on the court and ability to win with such grace.
Alice: I think Billie Jean King. I played Juniors about the same time she did. Most people know of her many achievements and challenges as an adult, but as a junior she had it quite difficult. In Southern California she was the only strong junior girl who did not come from a Country Club background or wasn’t slender with a blond pony tail! Most of the others were members of the LA Tennis Club, a very famous club at that time. Billie Jean was an outsider, from a more modest background. I’ll never forget the one time she was not allowed to be in a photograph of all the So Cal juniors attending Nationals because she wore shorts, not a tennis skirt. In spite of somewhat being ignored she persevered and took chances. When women first turned pro, she was one of the first to risk everything, unlike other top players of the time who waited to see if the pro circuit would succeed.
What advice do you have for a young girl who has recently started playing tennis?
Hayley: There will be a lot of ups and downs but you need to remember that everyone’s path is different. There will be more good times on the court then tough times. Just always remember that you are growing as a person and as a player each time you step foot on the court. Stick with it and you will see amazing results as a player and as a person.
Alice: I would tell her to not worry so much about her initial wins and losses or her ranking. She should keep working on the basics and play all kinds of games, especially doubles to improve her reflexes and her net game. But most importantly, I’d tell her to make sure she is enjoying herself and that tennis is fun!
Historically, tennis has led the way among sports by awarding equal prize money and giving exposure to female athletes in addition to male athletes. How else do you see tennis as a leader in gender equity?
Hayley: Having exposure to women’s sports plays a large role. With women’s tennis being televised more and more, people then start to realize the equal entertainment value.
Alice: One thing that immediately comes to mind is in my experience, players are appreciated for their abilities, not their sex, race, age or whatever. I think most players just see the strokes and the game of a prospective opponent. Also from marketing perspectives, television coverage, ticket sales and other factors, women’s tennis is equally in the forefront with men’s tennis. I don’t think any other major sport can claim this, certainly not golf, basketball or soccer.