RTA Community Spotlight: Lou Welch, Executive Director of Abilities Tennis Association of NC
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Tennis came into Lou Welch’s life full force at the age of 10. She started playing every day, hanging out at the courts, and playing with any willing soul. She played junior tournaments and on the local high school team, J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, NC. In college, Lou played on the tennis team at Peace College. It was there that Lou met Kelly Key Gaines, USTA North Carolina Executive Director, who would be instrumental in her future career with NC Tennis.
After college, Lou took a 15-year break from tennis. She returned in her 30's and it was then that she started to actively play leagues and social tennis.
As Executive Director of Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina (“ATANC”), Lou oversees twenty-three clinics and runs seven tournaments across the state. In addition, under her direction, ATANC hosts a national tournament as well as a qualifier for the National Adaptive Tournament held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, FL.
Lou says she is often asked about the history of Abilities Tennis. Some Abilities Tennis athletes started playing tennis through Special Olympics, which only offers tennis for two months out of the year. It was during that two month season that a coach and two parents, with special needs kids who loved tennis, saw a niche for year-round tennis programming. Together they formed a non-profit called Abilities Tennis Association of NC, one of two statewide Community Tennis Associations under the NC Tennis umbrella.
Each year, Lou also runs a fundraiser for ATANC, Footprints on the Court, which provides the funding that allows Abilities Tennis to provide free programming for their athletes with intellectual disabilities. This year , coming up this weekend Nov 4-7, Carolina Country Club is hosting the annual Footprints on the Court fund-raiser in Raleigh as a combined event experience to raise funds for Abilities adaptive tennis programs. The events include an Adult Tournament L5, Unified Doubles, Cocktail Party with music and dancing, and Silent Auction, which includes items donated by our generous community! Bidding is open now, everyone can participate in the silent auction on your phone at this link Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina - Footprints on the Court 2021 (bidpal.net). If you can't attend the events, you can still bid and you can still donate!
Lou and ATANC have done a wonderful job raising monies and building incredible programming for their athletes. Deservingly so, Lou is no stranger to tennis awards and accolades. In 2017, Lou won the North Carolina Tennis Adaptive Award for the impact she made in her roles as NC Tennis Adaptive Committee Chair, NC Tennis Adaptive board member, and Southern Adaptive Committee member. Under Lou’s leadership, Abilities Tennis expanded to serve over 500 athletes at 18 locations across the state and hosted six annual tennis tournaments. In 2018, Abilities Tennis was recognized at the US Open with the USTA National Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award.
In 2019, Lou received the USTA North Carolina Educational Merit Award given by Buster and Karen Brown. That same year, Abilities Tennis was named the 2019 USTA North Carolina and USTA Southern Community Tennis Association of the Year and was chosen by Net Generation to perform a demo in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open. Most recently, Lou received the Mary Milam award from USTA North Carolina! Wow! That’s quite an accomplishment for Lou and Abilities Tennis!
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.” - Arthur Ashe
Lou has had quite the journey and she has done so much for Abilities Tennis and the sport of tennis. While the doing is more important, as Arthur Ashe said in Lou’s favorite quote, we couldn’t be more proud of the outcomes. Thanks for everything, Lou!