Sometimes one person, as the adage goes, can make a difference. In Lake City, Fla., a small town of roughly 12,000, that person making a big difference is Dolly Robinson.
Without Robinson there would be little to no playable public tennis courts today in the county seat of Columbia County.
“She is a wonderful advocate for the sport,” says USTA Florida Local League Coordinator Leigh Chak. “Without her and the community tennis association, tennis in Lake City would have disappeared 3-1/2 years ago when the county paved over their courts.”
Robinson is the president and co-founder of the Lake City Columbia Community Tennis Association (LCCTA), a volunteer non-profit organization started to grow the game of tennis in Columbia County, which stretches south almost to Gainesville and north to the Florida-Georgia border.
“Our association has been meeting with city and county officials to replace and repair tennis courts which have long been neglected and rendered unplayable,” Robinson says. “This means the children and adults of our community have not had adequate access to the wonderful game of tennis.”
Outside of the Columbia High School-owned eight courts, the largest public tennis facility is the Southside Community Center’s four courts. A few other one- or two-court public facilities exist at local parks in various states of disrepair. The association uses these scant public facilities to annually host youth summer tennis camps, tennis clinics, Boys & Girls Club tennis, USTA Net Generation trainings and events for kids, and other activities throughout the year. Some activities are held in gymnasiums when local public courts are deemed safety hazards after years of negligence.
Now Robinson and her board members at the LCCTA have their sights set on something bigger for the local community — a proposed 24-court facility “to both grow the game of tennis and to serve as a tournament facility hosting local, regional, and national tennis tournaments.”
While the local facilities are wanting, the hunger for tennis locally is evident. Many LCCTA events see 80-100 kids turn out, and monthly board meetings include regionally-based USTA Florida staff members offering the latest information on program grants and support.
“Leigh Chak, USTA League coordinator, and [USTA Tennis Service Representative] George English attend our monthly meetings and offer invaluable advice and information,” Robinson says. “The LCCCTA Board members are an incredible group of volunteers with unique abilities and talents. They are all responsible for making things happen and it is an honor to represent them.”
Robinson is entering her fourth year as a tennis volunteer, leading local community demand for greater recreational opportunities for kids and adults through tennis.
“Dolly is working tirelessly to increase the amount of courts and tennis programs in Lake City and the surrounding areas,” Chak says. “The LCCCTA has started junior programs and hosted adult play days. The Dolly-lead CTA is dreaming big about bringing a huge new facility to the area. Their grassroots movement started with bringing tennis to the Boys and Girls Club, and as she likes to say, ‘Reality and your dreams don’t always mesh, but at least one can lead to the other.’”
George English, USTA Florida tennis service representative for North Florida, says the LCCCTA is a prime example of a community tennis organization raising the bar for tennis in a community.
“They strive to promote all aspects of tennis, including the construction of tennis courts, tennis training, and junior and adult programming,” English says. “Dolly has been a great leader in this effort and in helping to put together an impressive team of volunteers.”
USTA Florida thanks Dolly Robinson as the August 2018 Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month for her efforts to grow grassroots tennis and “think big” in Lake City and Columbia County.
About Dolly Robinson
Birthplace: St. Louis, Mo.
Family: “Husband Bruce, children Stefani and Kris, grands Jacob, Molly, Noah and Jackson — and 10 brothers and sisters!”
Favorite Movie: Brian’s Song
Favorite Food: Yogurt and fruit
Favorite Travel: Ichetucknee River
Favorite Shot: Crosscourt forehand
My earliest tennis memory is…”walking past dump trucks at a quarry in Rock Hill, Mo., to get to tennis lessons at Tilles Park and playing barefoot in a bathing suit on a friend’s home court in Ft. Lauderdale.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be…”my old doubles partner, Cindy Joye; Roger Federer, and Arthur Ashe.”
When I am not playing tennis I am…”painting, walking, gardening, math tutoring, kayaking, volunteering and enjoying an ordinary life.”
My best tennis memory is…”a compilation of enriching experiences and interesting people while competing, coaching, teaching and volunteering.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because…”it is so gratifying to see the eyes of a child who has never held a tennis racket light up when he or she first succeeds in making contact with the tennis ball.”