|Jon Vegosen- Chairman of the Board & President, USTA|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 12 October 2012 13:41
Jon Vegosen is Chairman of the Board and President of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), as well as Chairman of the US Open.
This is his sixth year as a member of the Board of Directors, having previously served as First Vice President (2009-10), and as a Director at Large (2007-08).
In addition, Vegosen is a member of the Board of Directors and a Vice President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and he represents the USTA as a voting member of the Grand Slam Committee. He also chairs the ITF Joint Media Commission and is a member of the ITF Finance Committee. Vegosen serves as Board Liaison to the ITF, the ATP World Tour, the WTA and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Furthermore, Vegosen serves as a member of the Board of Directors of USTA Serves, the national charitable foundation of the USTA, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He is also Director for Life of JCYS, a not-for-profit social service agency based in Chicago.
Throughout his career in sports administration, Vegosen has held a number of past positions in tennis, including the Chair of the USTA Collegiate Committee, Vice President and a Board member of both the USTA Midwest Section and the USTA Midwest Youth Tennis and Education Foundation.
Vegosen was also a Past President of the Chicago District Tennis Association (CDTA), where he was the Chairman of the Nominating and Junior Development committees and authored the “Parent Guide for Competitive Junior Tennis.” He also served on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Tennis Patrons, the charitable arm of the CDTA.
A forceful advocate for the sport of tennis, Vegosen has spoken and written on behalf of the USTA concerning dropped varsity college tennis programs. He also served on the NCAA/USOC Joint Task Force created to stem the tide of dropped Olympic sports at the collegiate level.
Vegosen and his wife, Shari, reside in Chicago. They have two sons, and all members of the family play tennis.
What are some of your earliest and fondest memories of the sport?
One of my earliest and fondest memories is the way in which I got into tennis – and I owe it to a four-letter word: golf. When I was nine years old, my parents joined a club so that they could play golf. They said to themselves, “What are we going to do with this kid so that we can play golf?” They put me on a tennis court, and it was probably one of the best decisions they ever made for me. I immediately fell in love with the game, and I’ve never lost that passion for the sport.
Whilst studying at law school, did you still harbour dreams of being involved in the sport in some capacity? Has your law experience in any way or form helped you in sports administration?
Objection. Compound question!
All kidding aside, while I was studying law at Northwestern University, I was actively involved in tennis. I taught tennis for about 15 hours a week at a facility three blocks from law school. It was a great way to stay in touch with the sport and to meet new people.
My law experience has definitely helped me in sports administration in a number of ways, including being able to spot and analyze issues quickly, understand the legal ramifications of many of the matters we address in the Board room, and be well organized.
What is your analysis of the current state of the sport and the USTA?
I think this is a very exciting time for tennis. On the professional side in the men’s game, we have incredible rivalries with the likes of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray. On the women’s side, we have about 10-12 gifted players from all over the world who have the ability to be No. 1.
At the grass-roots level, we have approximately 27 million people playing tennis in the U.S., and we’ve got a plan to increase that number significantly – especially among youngsters. Our 10 and Under Tennis initiative is one of the most extensive—and important—initiatives the USTA has ever undertaken. A few years ago, we had what I call a “Duh” moment. We realized that, like other sports, we needed to “kid-size” our sport and make it more “kid-friendly.” We’ve done that through the use of lower-compression balls that don’t bounce over kids’ heads, smaller racquets, and shorter courts. Kids are having more fun sooner, and they’re able to master tennis more easily than ever before.
In terms of the USTA, we continue to have a wonderful organization comprised of passionate volunteers in each of our 17 sections across the country, as well as a talented and dedicated staff. It’s a powerful combination that is helping to keep our sport growing strong.
What are your long term ambitions for the development of tennis in the States? And, how do you set about accomplishing your goals?
I think that the key long-term ambition for any USTA President is to be sure that we fulfill our mission: “To promote and develop the growth of tennis.” Having said that, my vision is that we should set that goal just a little bit higher and focus on promoting and developing the growth of people through tennis. All of us who have been involved in this great sport for a good part of our lives know well the bounty of benefits that go hand in hand with tennis. We need to make more people aware of those benefits. Because, when we share our sport, we in fact extend to others a universal key that opens doors, minds and hearts. And when we develop people through tennis, we inevitably promote and develop the growth of tennis itself.
And we are doing this quite well in the States. While in the past, many people have thought of tennis as an elitist sport, in the U.S., it actually is the Sport of Opportunity. We have become a more inclusive sport that embraces all communities, irrespective of their race, color, religion, ability, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, or political perspective. While tennis is a sport that provides fitness and competition, it actually goes beyond both. In the U.S., tennis also provides opportunities for education and character development that are the envy of other sports. One just has to look at how our charitable foundation, USTA Serves, and our National Junior Tennis & Learning network are changing, enhancing, and making a difference every day in the lives of hundreds of thousands of youngsters throughout this country.
As part of the development of people, we have to be sure that youngsters are getting into our sport, staying in it, and being fit. I believe that our 10 and Under initiative is critical to these goals. We are fortunate that First Lady Michelle Obama shares our vision. She has chosen tennis as one of the sports for her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. We couldn’t be prouder than we are to be partnering with her.