In late January, members of the various tennis regions that make up the USTA Eastern Section gathered at the organization’s annual Tennis Conference in New Jersey. The conference represents the start of a new year across the section, and this year ushered in the beginning of the two-year term for the new council of the Long Island Region.
At the head of that new council is Mike Pavlides, a longtime fixture in the Long Island tennis community, who has taken over as the new Regional Director.
“The Conference was a great event, and I was excited to get started as the new Director,” said Pavlides. “There was a lot of information to take in because you want to make sure you are taking the philosophy of USTA Eastern and bringing that down to the LI region. It was also important to understand that now you have a budget to work with and adhere to, and the goal is to spend that budget in ways that will fulfill the Eastern mission. We want to use those resources allocated to us to make a difference.”
Making a difference is something that Pavlides has been doing for the better part of two decades. A longtime USTA Long Island volunteer, Pavlides first began his time contributing to the region’s mission after he was asked to be the high school representative.
When asked why he has been so dedicated and such a visible part of tennis here on Long Island, Pavlides said:
“What I love about our sport is the social aspect of it, and how tennis can help you form relationships. I have made a lot of good friends through tennis, people I would have never known without it. I take that idea into how I coach and I emphasize that to my team; you can make friendships that go way beyond the game, and it is something to really cherish.”
As the head coach of Massapequa High School’s varsity tennis teams, Pavlides became the liaison between the high school coaches and organizations, and USTA Long Island.
“I was essentially tasked with reporting back to the board of what was happening at the high school level,” recalls Pavlides. “We continued a tradition of giving sweatshirts to the players who were going to the New York State tournament, and I was given some flexibility by past directors including Danny [Burgess] and Jonathan [Klee] to do more. We have given out pink wristbands to the girls’ teams in the fall for breast cancer awareness month, and in the spring gave out blue wristbands to the boys’ teams for autism awareness. We currently are giving a Sportsmanship Award plaque to all the public high school teams on LI. It was important that we used tennis as a way to give back and make a difference in the communities.”
Mike Pavlides presents Hewlett's Nyla Gershfeld with the USTA Eastern Long Island Sportsmanship Award at last year's Girls' Individual Championships.
In that role, Pavlides helped bring back the Long Island Championship in high school tennis which had not been played for a few years in the early 2010s. The USTA Long Island Executive Cup in 2016 and 2017 represented the return of the best team in Nassau County playing the best team from Suffolk County, and eventually set the stage to bring back the official Long Island Championship.
“This was something I was given the freedom to do and it worked out,” said Pavlides. “It wasn’t just me, though. People from both Nassau and Suffolk came together, we brainstormed and said that this is what is important. And we were able to do it. The USTA Long Island was the body that helped bring the counties together, between handling the paperwork, finding a location, buying the trophies and plaques, etc. We were able to get the Nassau and Suffolk sections to come together for the betterment of the players and local tennis.”
That has always been Pavlides mission in his time as a coach and the volunteer work he does for the Long Island Region, to use tennis as a vehicle for better things. And it is because of that dedication and selflessness that Pavlides was encouraged by his predecessor, Jonathan Klee, to apply to become the new Regional Director in this new term.
“Mike has been an invaluable member of our regional council over the years,” said Klee, who is moving on to join the USTA Eastern Board as its Secretary. “He has provided numerous hours of his time working on high school events and charity initiatives, USTA Kids Days, our Annual Awards Dinner, and both Sectional and National initiatives. I can think of no one better to lead the Long Island Council going forward than Mike, and I have no doubt he will continue to expand upon all of the volunteer work our council has done during my tenure.”
As we finish up the indoor winter season here on Long Island and move into the spring, it continues to be an exciting time for tennis here in our community. The game’s increase in popularity and participation maintains its ascent, and Pavlides and his team are tasked with ensuring that remains the case.
“The goal is the same for all of us, and that is to continue to grow the game,” said Pavlides. “And that doesn’t just mean getting new players and inspiring the next generation, but also making sure people who are already playing continue to do so. Whether you are a senior, middle-aged, in college or a junior, it’s our job to help keep the rackets in those people’s hands, and emphasize the fun and social components that tennis provides.”
Pavlides and the new USTA Long Island Regional Council are excited to embark on this journey over the next couple of years to sustain the positive impact that the region has had.
“I am very excited, and what makes me confident is that everyone in the council has been so supportive of me already,” he said. “The first thing they said was, ‘how can I help?’, and for me that means more to me than anything. We are all on the same page, and committed to do what’s needed to continue growing the game, and carrying on the tradition and standards that the past councils have started.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.