RTA Staff Spotlights

Updated: 6 hours ago

RTA’s Executive Director, Julie Dick, picked up her first racquet at age 14 to hit the ball over the net to her identical twin sister, Jennifer. It was love at first serve!

A simple suggestion from their mother to get out on the courts one lazy summer day led to a lifetime love for the sport. When the twins were not at school, they were often found on the courts until sunset. They played top seed for their high school tennis team where they dazzled spectators with their twin tricks during doubles matches.

The twins passion for tennis led them to become instructors with Parks and Recreation in their small hometown in Kentucky. While Agassi, Sampras, Graf and Seles were ruling the tennis scene on the world stage, the twins coordinated numerous local tennis events that were very popular among both youth and adults.

Julie’s commitment to teaching youth tennis and program coordination continued into her adult years. With her two young children in tow, she decided to start a tennis class as there was not much local youth tennis being taught at the time. Her class gained instant popularity, and it wasn’t long before Julie was teaching several classes a day.

To meet the demand of an inspired community, Julie formed the Georgetown Tennis Association (GTA), a USTA affiliated Community Tennis Association. Julie’s devotion and hard work quickly had a significant impact on local tennis and garnered state, sectional, and national honors for the GTA and herself including Kentucky CTA of the Year, Special Event of the Year, and Team Tennis Event of the Year. In 2010, Julie was recognized as the Kentucky and USTA Southern Junior Team Tennis Organizer of the Year, and was awarded the prestigious Janet Louer National Organizer of the Year which recognizes an individual who delivers USTA Junior Team Tennis to their community and embodies the true meaning of having a positive impact on children.

Julie’s philosophy is impactful but simple: “play to learn” which encourages players to learn the skill through continuous play of the game.

In 2016, Julie and her family moved to the Triangle area and the timing could not have been better as the RTA had recently created the Executive Director position for the organization and was interviewing candidates. Upon taking on the position, Julie immediately set to work on learning the tennis landscape and communities in Raleigh. Her experience and passion for community tennis has been instrumental in record growth of the sport locally and engagement with all communities. Through collaboration and building relationships, Julie continues to promote the joy of tennis, making the sport accessible for all to enjoy.

RTA's Growth Development Coordinator, Ronnie Todd picked up her first racquet at age 12 when her parents joined a small club. She adored playing for hours with her sister, Gena, and anyone else who happened to walk by. Ronnie learned to hit a two-handed backhand because her wooden racquet was too heavy to swing one-handed. Ronnie played on her high school team but her interest in tennis waned during her college years.

Ronnie re-discovered her love of tennis when introducing tennis to her children. Her family spent many happy (and sometimes frustrating) hours on the court together. With her passion for tennis re-kindled, Ronnie began playing ladder matches, World Team Tennis and USTA Leagues.

“The very best part of tennis has to be the close and lasting friendships that develop on the court and carry over into all aspects of life."

After retiring from a long career at IBM, Ronnie spent two years coaching young juniors and emerging adult players before joining the RTA in 2018. Ronnie organizes Try Tennis, an introductory tennis program for junior and adult beginners that is inexpensive enough for almost any budget. Raleigh has one of the highest populations of Try Tennis players in the state and the program has grown significantly the past two years.

RTA's Y'ALL League Coordinator, Mallory Barishman, started tennis when she was a child. She remembers having fun; but "was really just there for the snacks." It wasn't until later that she realized how much FUN tennis really is to play!

With a new discovered passion for the game, Mallory participated in tennis summer camps and started taking lessons during the year. When she moved to Raleigh from New York a few years ago, she got into the swing of things! She found the tennis community in Raleigh to be "huge with so many wonderful opportunities to get out there, meet new people, and PLAY!"

Among the opportunities she found was the 30 and Under League, which has recently been re-named the Y'All League (Young Adult Local League). Through the the Y'All League, she has made many life-long friends. Besides meeting new people and playing fun matches, she really enjoyed the time after matches to socialize with drinks at Matchpoint Grille at the Raleigh Racquet Club. "This is where great friendships were made!" Mallory's passion for tennis is as huge as tennis in Raleigh! For that reason, Mallory is Raleigh's new Y'All League Coordinator! Mallory often can be found playing tennis at RRC. Find her on the court; and ask her how to join all the fun in the Y'All League!

RTA’s Program Coordinator, Alana Ferens, did not always love to play tennis. In fact, she hated it when her parents dragged her out on the courts. While her parents played, she often sat by the fence with her racquet in front of her face as if to shield her from the balls that landed nearby.

It wasn’t until her older brother started playing that she took a genuine interest in the sport, mostly so she could hang out with him. He taught her proper form and technique. And, in no time, she was participating in clinics and playing at the local club.

Her love for tennis grew further when she attended a Nike Tennis Camp in Princeton, New Jersey. As her tennis skills strengthened, so did her friendships. She played high school tennis and club tennis in college.

Alana’s passion for tennis is as much about the people she meets as the matches she plays. For that reason, she helps coordinate RTA Programs for new players, returning players, and young adults. You can also find her coaching some of these programs as well.

Alana is so thankful for all of the people she has met or bonded with over tennis, especially her fiancé who she met as part of this league!

RTA’s Local League Coordinator, Tracy Debnam, converted from a golfer to a tennis player when the ladies in her neighborhood asked her to play. Since then, tennis plays a big role in her life. Over the years, she has served on the RTA Board and has played on teams that qualified her at the 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 levels.

As a former attorney, Tracy brings expertise and skill invaluable to the tennis community. With the encouragement of her friends, Tracy took leadership in coordinating the RTA Winter League in 2013. By 2014, she became the RTA Local League coordinator in which she coordinates the RTA leagues and USTA Capital Area Leagues.

In 2018, Tracy was awarded both the Southern USTA LLC of the Year and the NC Tennis LLC of the Year. In addition, she is the Chair of the NC Tournament and sits on both The Grievance Committee and the NC Adult League Committee.

As a parent of a competitive junior tennis player, she knows the true value that tennis brings to one’s life, and what the sport teaches us about ourselves and others. Andre Agassi expressed it best in her favorite quote when he said, "It's no accident that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature."

RTA’s Promotions Coordinator, Elaine Perkinson ("The Lady Behind the Lens"), played softball long before she discovered tennis. Her softball career lasted until her late twenties. She left behind an impressive record with multiple state championships and a top 5 finish in the World Series.

When Elaine moved to Raleigh in the late 90’s, she signed up to play competitive tennis at Millbrook, and she and her friends played at Lakemont. Later, she joined teams at Quail Hollow and Seven Oaks Swim and Racquet Club. Tennis was now her new game of choice.

On most days, Elaine can be found out on the courts playing tennis, taking pictures, or as a USTA Official at a junior tournament. For three years, she was a tennis coach in Teach, Grow, Achieve's after school program for multiple public and private elementary schools in Wake County. For thirteen years, she served as a USTA official. Prior to the pandemic, she officiated for 12 to 15 junior tournaments a year.

Outside of tennis, Elaine is a certified wildlife rehab volunteer with American Wildlife Refuge. She can handle and rescue birds of prey, including owls, falcons, hawks, eagles and vultures!

When asked what she loved most about tennis, she said “I love tennis because it's a great sport. You meet great people and you can play for life.”

She has a simple and effective tip for a serving winning shot. “Hit it where they ain’t.”

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