Rebecca Boyce

Current Student: M.S.S. Sports Management

Rebecca Boyce

Rebecca Boyce wanted to help restore Miami Beach, Fla., to its former glory as a tennis haven and since 2008 the United States Sports Academy master’s student has done just that.

Miami Beach once hosted the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, a prestigious junior tennis tournament considered the initiation rite of future world tennis champions. The tournament started in 1947 and was played for 51 years at Miami Beach’s Flamingo Tennis Center where a virtual who’s who of tennis stars competed, such as Arthur Ashe, Chris Evert, Roger Federer and Steffi Graf.

However, the facility and its 9,000-seat Able Holtz stadium fell into disrepair and the tournament moved to Key Biscayne, Fla., which now hosts the Sony Open, one of the world’s top professional tennis events.

Boyce got involved during her mentorship, which led to her co-founding the Miami Beach Tennis Players Association, creating tennis lessons for women who want to begin playing and becoming an advocate for better public tennis facilities. Nearly 650 people are considered MBTPA members, the eight-week True Beginner Tennis program regularly includes about 25 women, and the city finally began last year a $5.5 million plan to renovate the Flamingo Tennis Center. The project includes a new 5,000-square-foot tennis building and 17 clay hydro-courts among other improvements.

Boyce, who only has her master’s comprehensive exam left to earn her degree in Sports Management, recently spoke with the Alumni Network about the MBTPA effort to put tennis back on the map in Miami Beach, creating a fun environment to teach women tennis and becoming a vocal advocate for better public tennis facilities.

Alumni Network: How did you get involved with enhancing recreational tennis in Miami Beach?

Rebecca Boyce: In Miami Beach, a city subcontractor runs the tennis centers. It has been bad, bad management for the last 10 years. Because of what I saw happening and my concern for the management issues and renovation of the tennis centers, I and another person founded the Miami Beach Tennis Players Association in 2008. I’ve always been really interested in recreational tennis. I’ve always wanted to be on the court as much as I could. I’m a legal assistant during the day.

Alumni Network: How are women in your True Beginners Tennis program taking to the sport of tennis, one of the fastest growing sports in America?

Rebecca Boyce: As part of my mentorship, I created the True Beginners Tennis program for women for Miami Beach. I got really involved with the city because I wanted to bring more women into the sport. We’ve been doing it a year and a half now and we average about 20-to-25 women in the program. We’ve had about 100 women go through the program. We stress proper technique and proper play. We have world-class instructors but we also try to make a fun environment, so it’s not intimidating and so the women can really enjoy learning the sport. Many of the women might not have been athletes their whole lives, so they can be a little intimidated about playing. It’s really a bonding experience for them. Some are still in the program who were in the first group when we started and now they’re intermediate players. It’s real rewarding for me.

Alumni Network: You’ve been one of the most outspoken critics in the Miami Beach community of the city’s renovation plans for its tennis facilities. How much have you enjoyed taking on City Hall?

Rebecca Boyce: I’ve pointed out the city’s foibles and missteps. We’ve been able to get some wins and make many changes but I haven’t made friends in the process. The city passed a bond in 1999 to renovate its tennis facilities. Here it is 2013 and they’re finally being built. When the city first came out with its plans in 2008, no one was involved whatsoever. The plans were utterly ridiculous. No one in the city had any knowledge about tennis at all. They didn’t consult with anyone involved in tennis or with any organizations like the United States Tennis Association. It has become a huge political battle. Our mayor told Time magazine that tennis players are the most obnoxious special interest group that the city has.

Alumni Network: How has earning your master’s degree in Sport Management at the Academy helped you?

Rebecca Boyce: I wanted to increase my knowledge of sport. Sports have been a passion of mine most of my life as a recreational athlete. Because I’ve become a lot more informed about sport, I got involved in city government. If it had not been for getting my master’s degree, I would not be doing any of this.