The best USTA League captains walk the fine line between posting competitive line-ups while making sure all team members get court time, providing excellent communication without being overbearing or dictatorial, and knowing when to give teammates their space while providing guidance and support.
For women 55 and older at the Boulevard Tennis Club in Vero Beach, Fla., that captain is JoAnn Merklinghaus, who over the last year has led 55-and-over teams to sectionals while acting as an ambassador for the club and assisting the head pro with recruiting players and special events.
“She comes to every match to watch and support her team, and she even provides the balls for every court while refusing to take money from the team to pay her back,” says Boulevard player Lauren Kusher.
Merklinghaus’ support for her teammates during matches mirrors one of her favorite Serena Williams quotes, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.”
“I love to organize doubles partners and enjoy seeing my teammates succeed in the sport,” says Merklinghaus, who has competed herself this year in USTA League 55-and-over and TriLevel competition. “This past season we made it to the sectionals and got to play in the finals. Unfortunately, we lost, but our goal is to go to sectionals and win the finals!”
While recently caring for her ill father and traveling to babysit for a daughter who had surgery, she still tended to every need for her team, Kusher said.
“She never missed a beat with making sure the team was taken care of,” said the Boulevard player. “As a result of her great captaining skills, the players at the club are always asking her to captain teams and wanting to play on them. JoAnn also tries her best to put the right players into the matches to give the teams the best chance of winning, but she also makes every effort to get the other players into the matches whenever she possibly can.
The New Jersey-raised Merklinghaus can also offer her teams wisdom as a former certified fitness trainer who now works in the wellness industry, after formerly acting as the owner and publisher of a newspaper in New Jersey.
“As life transitions, so do careers,” Merklinghaus says. “Exercise is the best illness preventative and anti-aging remedy there is. Exercise boosts productivity and gives people more energy. I’ve personally experienced this myself once I made fitness a regular part of my life. I saw it in others when I brought it into theirs.”
USTA Florida thanks and congratulates JoAnn Merklinghaus as the USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month for March 2022 as a team captain organizing tennis and promoting fitness among the players in Vero Beach.
Birthplace: New Jersey
Family Members: My husband Jim, my son Ryan, my daughter Cassandra, my daughter-in-law Ashley, and my 2-year-old granddaughter McKenzie is my tennis star in training.
Favorite Movie: Heat
Favorite Food: Salmon
Favorite Travel Spot: Bahamas
Favorite Shot: One-handed backhand
My earliest tennis memory was… “When Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in 1973.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be… “Serena William, Naomi Osaka, Ashley Barty.”
When I’m not playing tennis I am… “Playing my piano, metal detecting and fishing.”
My best tennis memory is… “Seeing Serena William play in US Open.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because… “I love to organize doubles partners and enjoy seeing my teammates succeed in the sport.”
Interested in volunteering in tennis? Visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Volunteers to learn more about available opportunities.