Former Burnt Hills and U Albany Tennis Standout and current USTA Eastern Director of Competition Julie Bliss was honored this week by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
SKILLMAN, NJ (Dec. 15) — The Intercollegiate Tennis Association and United States Tennis Association have announced the 2012 ITA Collegiate Varsity Performer of the Year Award and ITA Collegiate Varsity Volunteer of the Year Award winners.
Julie Bliss received the ITA Collegiate Varsity Performer of the Year Award and Jennifer Reinbold was named ITA Collegiate Varsity Volunteer of the Year. Both individuals will receive a travel stipend to attend the 2012 ITA Coaches Convention at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples, Fla., where they will be presented with their awards during the USTA Luncheon.
Bliss, the Director of Competition & Player Development for the USTA Eastern Section, has been an exemplar in promoting collegiate tennis in her area. One of the major events Bliss runs and organizes is the USTA Eastern College Showcase Day which features some of the top junior players in the USTA Eastern section. This year 150 high school students attended the showcase along with over 50 collegiate coaches from NCAA Divisions I, II, and III. “It gives high school players the opportunity to meet a lot of college coaches” said Bliss.
Always looking to grow the showcase, Bliss took the initiative to add high school juniors to the formerly all senior showcase. Bliss has also added a new dimension to the showcase by bringing in guest speakers which has been beneficial for players, parents and coaches. This past year, Bliss brought Eric Butorac, a former NCAA singles champion and current men’s tennis assistant coach at Harvard University, to speak at the showcase. She also had representatives from NCSA Athletic Recruiting on site to give a presentation about ‘The 5 things to know and the 5 things to do’ about college recruiting. “It’s an overall benefit for everyone to bridge that connection of scholastic sports and collegiate programs in the area, doing whatever we can to get their programs active.”
In addition to running the USTA Eastern College Showcase Day, Bliss has also played a key role in encouraging college campuses to get involved in hosting USTA/ITA partnership programs, especially Campus Showdowns; Campus Showdowns are one-day, short format tournaments open to juniors, college players, professionals and adults. In the past year, Bliss has helped host several Campus Showdowns at St. Bonaventure, Stevens Institute of Technology, RPI, Hobart William Smith, and Siena.
Working with college coaches, Bliss successfully led the way for two Adopt-a-Regional initiatives; one at West Point and the other at William Smith. The Adopt-a-Regional initiative consists of a USTA section selecting an USTA/ITA Regional Championship to support by means of recognition and representation of players and coaches while encouraging the community to support the teams and players. She also has hired several college coaches to coach junior teams at national team events. Looking ahead, Bliss has begun working with Fairleigh Dickinson University to host a Campus Kids’ Day, and is looking to more schools to participate in this outreach initiative.
“I believe that playing tennis adds a dimension to your college experience” said Bliss, who along with her sister, both played collegiate tennis. “I played college tennis at the University of Albany
and my sister played at Marist, so for us, it just added to our college experience.”