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5:52 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Howard: Going above and beyond, Caprielian 35-year volunteer at Indian Wells

Column: My Point

What can you say about a person who has gone over and beyond in giving of their time and energy to help make what is now the fifth largest tennis event in the world become a destination point of special memories for millions of people.

This is Mary Caprielian’s 35th year to volunteer for the Indian Wells tournament. It all began while on a trip down the Nile in 1983, when she met a lady who was chair of the media room.

During their conversation, she found Mary loved the game of tennis and asked if she would like to volunteer at the tournament that was being held at the La Quinta Resort. She started at the resort in 84, then the Hyatt Grand Champion Resort in Indian Wells, and more recently to the Tennis Gardens in 2000.

She started as a volunteer in the media room, then in 86 became its chair. At the time the media room could accommodate around 75 press sitting side by side on long tables, compared to the individual cubicles housing over 300 press in today’s media center.

About 2010, Mary took over media hospitality, which was housed in a spacious room beneath the media work area.

So what prompted her to continue volunteering year after year? She commented, “I loved the relationships I was able to develop with world renowned writers, and broadcasters such as Vic Braden, Bud Collins, Cliff Drysdale, Patrick McEnroe, Bill Simons, of Tennis Magazine, and a host of others.

Add to this the relationship with the great owner’s Charlie Paserell and Ray Moore, Steve Simon the greatest tournament director ever and who is now head of the WTA.

Then, of course, the fun we had with the unsung heroes of the tournament, the photographers, T.V. camera crews, and all the guys and gals who worked behind the scenes to bring the tournament to viewers around the world.

Being able to do whatever our crew of volunteers could do to make all these fine folks stay as pleasurable and comfortable as possible was our goal, and what brought me back year after year.”

What Mary doesn’t tell you is that her personality, people skills and magnetism, created an atmosphere that everyone liked to be a part of. She made you feel like you were a guest in her home and she was there to help. Her infectious smile, hospitality and conversation created a closeness among many.

In addition, she was able to meet most of the greatest tennis players of the last 35 years which is an avid tennis players dream.

“As the tournament has grown, and along with the advent of modern technology, the personal closeness has diminished”, she mentioned. “I might be prejudiced, but when the Hospitality center was closed, which served as a place to unwind, take a break, and visit with their peers, it reduced the ability for all to associate with each other on a personal level.”

So why is this her last year?

As the tournament has grown to its international stature as the “fifth major” the village atmosphere has largely diminished.

“Many of my great friends have either passed on, or are no longer connected to the tournament,” she said. “As new blood takes the tournament to its next level, it’s time for us old guys to move on, but I will always cherish and consider a privilege, the time I have spent at this event.”

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-675 or choward4541@gmail.com.