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Sun, Oct. 20

Column: Q and A with Prescott's new USTA Southwest Section honcho

There are 17 sections that make up the governing body for the United States Tennis Association, and a Prescott High School graduate Eric Mitchell is now directing our USTA Southwest Section

The section is made up of Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso County, Texas.

Mitchell, 40, who has worked for the Section the past 12 years, and more currently as the co-interim executive director, will be responsible for managing all USTA Southwest staff, overseeing and planning the budget, implementing the strategic plan, developing grass roots programming at all levels, and carrying out the direction of the USTA Southwest Board of Directors and its committees.

The USTA is the governing body for tennis in our country and was founded in 1881.

The Southwest Section, which formed in 1912, is a not-for-profit tennis association comprised of over 13,600 individual members and over 200 member organizations as well as hundreds of volunteers. All are devoted to promoting and developing the growth of tennis.

We caught up with MItchell and asked him a few questions about his new position, what it was like growing up in Prescott and venturing forth in his quest for tennis prominence.

Q: What was it like growing up in Prescott and trying to become a tennis player as a junior?

A: Back in those days I would play at Roughrider, Prescott Racquet Club and Prescott High School. I remember going down to Phoenix on the weekends to play the satellite tournaments. I also remember shoveling snow off the courts at the Prescott Racquet Club to practice.

Q: Who were your coaches and what drove you to continue playing the game that's become a career?

A: Dan Marioni and Rick Bothell were my high school tennis coaches. And I worked with you and Kevin Eby. I actually got going in my tennis career at first washing courts at Kiwanis Park in Tempe while going to ASU. From there I started teaching kids and adults, then worked for the Phoenix District, then the Southwest Section.

My parents were the quintessential managers. They'd schedule practices, drive me to tournaments and of course pay for everything. My uncle, Jim Mitchell from Yuma is a longtime tennis coach and he also played a big role.

Q: With all the good applicants applying for the executive directors position, did you think you'd land it?

A: I was confident in my ability to do the job with my vast USTA experience. I don't know everyone who applied but it was a well sought after job.

Q: What would you like to see accomplished in the next few years in our SW Tennis Section?

A: One of the focuses is on the USTA's 10 and under tennis initiative. A great plan has been put in place to grow our base of young players by playing on the right size courts, with the right size equipment. And maybe even find the next great American champion like Sampras or Agassi along the way!

Q: What would you tell high school players who might want to get involved in making the game of tennis a future career?

A: As you can see, I started by washing courts, so there's one avenue to begin with. Typically we see the high school and college players start off helping out at city programs and summer camps and in time become full-time teaching pros, tournament directors and facility directors.

Q: Any words for your fellow Prescott friends?

A: Obviously I love the game and invite everyone there to pick up a racquet and hit the courts.

I'd like to wish Eric the best of luck and to not forget the roots of which he well as helping us boost the game of tennis in the Prescott area as much as possible.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at or 928-642-6775.

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