(January 9, 2014) – USTA Eastern has awarded Dale Caldwell, the former president of the Eastern board of directors, the Leslie J. FitzGibbon Tennis Man of the Year Award for his sustained involvement in growing the game.
“It’s humbling because there are so many amazing people who haven’t won it who could have been candidates for it,” said Caldwell.
Along with his work at Eastern, Caldwell served as Director at Large on the USTA Board of Directors, as the Chair of the Strategic and Creative Planning Committee and as the Board Liaison to the Opportunity and Education Council. “Eastern was my introduction to the USTA and it changed my life,” he said of his 2006 – 2008 term as board president.
While Caldwell already loved the sport before volunteering with Eastern and USTA National, he said, “My admiration grew exponentially because you realize how great the sport is and how many people volunteer their time to make the sport better. It’s just an amazing group of volunteers and an amazing group of staff members.”
Caldwell started playing tennis when he was eight and growing up in Boston. He remembers first being taught the sport by his father, which prompted his lifelong love affair with the game. In addition, Caldwell competed in numerous New England tournaments as well as in American Tennis Association’s tournaments before heading to Princeton University for his undergraduate degree where he played for the varsity team.
Citing Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Rod Laver as his favorite athletes to watch, Caldwell transitioned from loving the sport to volunteering after his friend Larry Dillon, Eastern’s Manager of 10 and Under Tennis, introduced him to available USTA opportunities.
Through his work, Caldwell realized he could also “grow the sport in new ways” and decided to start the organization Tennis in New York, whose mission he described as helping other tennis organizations come together. Through the group, he helped kick off the inaugural New York Open professional tournament in July 2013 at the West Side Tennis Club, the former home of the US Open.
Along with aiding others to play the game, tennis served Caldwell in his management-consulting career. In fact, he hit with many of the CEOs he worked with over the years. “It was a great way to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to meet,” he said.
Now, Caldwell has turned to education and is using tennis as a platform to teach children as the head of the Village Charter School in Trenton, New Jersey. While focusing first on securing academic proficiency for his students, Caldwell is also introducing his students to tennis for a number of reasons. “It’s great exercise, it’s great intellectually, and it really helps to manage emotions,” said Caldwell. He added that the sport helps kids become successful in academics and in life.
About being recognized for his work by Eastern in January, he continued, “I’m just very thankful and I’m going to double down my efforts to help promote and grow the sport.”