Steamboat Springs Loretta Conway said she never planned on picking up a tennis racket before she got to high school, but an enthusiastic coach with a passion for the game encouraged her to give the sport a try.
“I had never picked up a tennis racket, but a coach let me go out for the team, and it changed my whole life,” she said.
Conway admits she wasn’t on the varsity lineup right off the bat, but after playing the game with the high school team, she was hooked.
“My life has been full of wonderful friends and exciting adventures due to my career in tennis. It never ceases to amaze me how this sport of ours enriches so many lives in so many ways,” she said.
She added that experience has inspired her to spread her love of the game of tennis whenever, and wherever, she can , and this weekend, the USPTA Intermountain Division recognized Conway for her efforts with the 2016 Diversity Award at the organization’s convention in Denver.
She sad the honor not only reflects what she has done since moving to Colorado with her husband, Bill, in 2011, but also what she did before coming to the mountains.
She helped start a program in Florida to introduce at-risk youth to tennis and founded and designed the “USA Tennis on the Move” program, which introduced the game to new players at colleges, street festivals and schools.
She developed and managed first Florida State Girl Scout Tennis patch program and worked with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the National USTA to start nine original First Serve sites across Florida. Those programs helped low-income youth through tennis and education.
She helped community tennis leaders in Florida and Northern California raise thousands of dollars in grants and sponsorships to grow the sport of tennis by offering programs and building courts. She also led a movement to build a tennis court at San Quentin prison with community donations and was voted volunteer of the year for the prison in 2005.
Since moving to Colorado, she has been working with USTA Intermountain and the Colorado Tennis Association as a tennis specialist. During the 18 months she lived in Denver and the past four years in Steamboat, she has visited more than 20 schools and introduced several thousand young people to the sport of tennis.
Dual Hand Luke coming to town
In his prime, professional tennis player Luke Jensen could serve a tennis ball at more than 130 mph — with either hand.
The talent earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke," and in 1993, he earned the men's doubles title at the French Open, playing with his younger brother, Murphy Jensen. He was ranked No. 6 in the world in doubles play the same year.
“He was very popular in his day,” said Conway, who serves as business development director and teaching professional at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. “He is a big wig in the tennis world and has been touring the Western Slope, doing one-day events. He wanted to come to Steamboat.”
On Monday, Jensen will be in town to put on a series of clinics. The clinics are full, but Conway said interested people can put their names on a wait list. The standout tennis player will host four, 2-hour clinics, at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and at 2:30 and 6 p.m. The final clinic is for high-level juniors.
The public is welcome to watch the clinics.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966