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Sherri Vitale



Children: Connor and Jake (twins), 15; Ava, 12

Photo of Sherri Vitale and her family
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Tell us your own story of what makes tennis a special part of your life.

It's a big component of our life. Obviously, right now, with three kids playing, it dictates a lot of what we do as a family. I think that tennis teaches the kids a lot of lifelong traits they'll carry on into their adult life – setting goals, working hard, being independent thinkers. All these things they can carry through at a young age and hopefully into college and their adult lives.


After playing at Notre Dame and starting a family, did you know your kids would play tennis? Why was it important for them to play?
The twins were born first, and tennis was not their main sport. When they were younger, we exposed them to all different sports. They did baseball, basketball, they played flag football, and up until about 12, baseball was the main sport. They traveled the country on a travel team. They were doing tennis on the side, and their coach told them if they committed to tennis, he thought they could excel at it. You know, it's hard to do two sports on a high level. They decided to give tennis a try and see how far they could get with it. Ava came to tennis naturally. She pretty much has only done tennis, a little bit of soccer, but tennis has been Ava's main sport since she was a young age.


Why do you think it is important for your children to play tennis?

We love tennis. We're definitely a committed tennis family, and I think it's a wonderful sport. We're blessed to live in Florida, where we can enjoy it 12 months out of the year. We love that the USTA is now here in Orlando. We've gone down [to the USTA National Campus] a ton of times now for camps and to watch the college matches. We're fortunate to have all that right here in our backyard.


What has tennis taught you about yourself?

Tennis has really taught me to be an independent thinker. You're out there on your own. There are a lot of things that go on in the middle of a match that you have to problem-solve on your own, figure out on your own. That makes you become a stronger individual and to learn to make good decisions and not always rely on someone else. You think, 'I can figure things out. Things might not be going my way, but I can figure out how to overcome and work through this.' Tennis is a great sport in that regard.


How has your family come together to fight cancer with tennis and other events?

My dad [legendary sports broadcaster Dick Vitale] is very passionate about the V Foundation. His colleague, Jim Valvano, passed away battling cancer, and my dad has been a board member since the V Foundation was formed. He's made it his passion and mission to help kids – in particular pediatric cancer – and he really devotes all of his free time to doing events and thinking of ways to raise dollars for kids battling that disease. One of the events he organizes is a college tennis tournament here at Lakewood Ranch, where they bring in men's and women's college teams in November, and all the proceeds go to the V Foundation and cancer research. And then in May, he has a big gala here at the Ritz. Last year, they raised $2.5 million for the V Foundation and cancer research. He does other small things throughout the year, too.


Are you involved with any other tennis associations or associations?

The kids do Buddy Up Tennis on Saturdays, when they don't have tournaments. They go out and help the kids with special needs. That's a really good organization if anyone is looking to do anything to help youngsters. You help the kids with their motor skills and their coordination. They're so appreciative of the time, and the kids in the program look up to Jake and Connor and Ava. It's a good way to give back in a small way.

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