Kathy Elliott to receive award from Colorado USTA for contributions to tennis community
Kathy Elliott did her darnedest to get USTA Colorado to reconsider the action it was going to take.
Alas, her plea fell on deaf ears.
Like it or not, she was told, she’s done so much for tennis over the years in the communities she’s served that it’s about time that she be recognized for it.
So, tonight, as part of USTA Colorado’s annual Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame Gala, Elliott will receive the Bud Robineau Award for contributions to the tennis community. It is an honor recognizing longtime service to the tennis community.
Elliott should have known her argument would be futile, but like the competitive player and coach that she’s been most of her life, she had to try. So, upon learning she’d been chosen for the Robineau Award, which USTA Colorado Executive Director Fritz Garger said is the most prestigious award it gives, Elliott immediately crafted a note to Garger.
“I wrote him, ‘No way are you giving me this award,’ ” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Here’s a list of people who deserve this award,’ and I came up with every name in the universe I could think of.”
Garger then spoke with Elliott to say, “Kathy, really there’s not an option here.”
That’s because a committee decides the recipient, and Garger said, “This is well thought out, and our committee is very assured of the decision they’ve made. ... She deserves it.”
Too many people know what Elliott, 59, has done for tennis in Grand Junction, where she was raised and where she returned upon retirement, and Greeley, where she taught school and coached for nearly three decades.
Tom Van De Hey, the director of tennis at Garden of the Gods Club in Colorado Springs, nominated Elliott for the Robineau Award. He spent about 15 years in Greeley, which is where he met Elliott and saw what she did as a high school coach at Greeley Central, then Greeley West, plus her involvement in the summer program and eventually a year-round tennis program that Van De Hey orchestrated.
Van De Hey said sometimes people labor for years and go unnoticed, but he had the perspective of his many years working with Elliott. Plus, he knows what she has been doing in Grand Junction since 2008. No ifs, ands or buts, she deserves the award, he said.
“She’s very giving, very devoted,” Van De Hey said. “She was always willing to do what was necessary for kids.”
Elliott’s been that way since she was a kid, the second oldest of Carter and Lena Elliott’s 11 children. She officially began teaching tennis lessons for the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department at age 16. Less formally, “I was teaching way before then in our backyard because we had a tennis court,” she said.
Ron Danekas, who has been playing tennis in Grand Junction for nearly 40 years and has paired with Elliott in mixed doubles many times, has seen the teacher of tennis at work.
“Whether it’s a kid just starting off or someone who’s 80 years old, she’d give everything she can to help them,” Danekas said. “Kathy’s got a heart of gold. She’s enthusiastic about anything to do with tennis. ... She just gives of herself and doesn’t give it a second thought. She’s really an ambassador for tennis. She just is.”
Grand Junction attorney Terry Farina, another longtime tennis player and friend of the Elliott family, said whatever her tennis task is, Elliott’s on top of it and does it with enthusiasm.
“Kathy is such a dynamo and so upbeat,” Farina said. “She gets right on things, then follows them through all the way, and she’s very patient with all of her charges. ... She’s not afraid to be constructive, but she always does it in a positive way. That’s an art.”
Farina added, “Kathy, you’d never believe it, is near 60.”
Elliott is having a hard time fathoming that number herself. Retirement from teaching didn’t give her any less to do:
■ She’s the tennis coach at Central High School for the boys and girls programs.
■ She helps out with every tennis program and tournament that her family is involved in, and there are several.
■ She still gives tennis lessons.
■ She’s the secretary/treasurer for the Grand Junction Tennis Club.
■ And she says the nice thing about retirement is she doesn’t have a schedule, yet she puts together schedules for seemingly every tennis league under the Western Colorado sun.
“Who does this when they’re 60 years old?” Elliott said. “I’ve been blessed with good health, that’s all I can say.
“I’ve been very busy, but it’s fun because it’s tennis.”
Dick Watson, who teamed for many years with Lena Elliott to run the Grand Junction Tennis Club, is another person who says Kathy Elliott has the energy of a teenager.
“She just has unbounding energy, and she’s still going when we’ve all dropped,” Watson said of working tournaments with Elliott.
And Watson is firmly in the camp of people who say: Never mind her protests, Elliott deserves the Robineau Award.
“She works tirelessly to promote tennis in this valley,” he said. “She’s deserving. She’s been in tennis forever.”
So, she’ll be at tonight’s ceremony to accept the award, for which she said, “I’m honored, flattered and motivated.”
And Elliott is grateful for one more thing. “I don’t have to say anything. I’m happy about that,” she said. “The Hall of Famers are the only ones who speak. The rest of us have to smile, so I think I can do that. I know I can.”