TEMPE, Ariz. – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced today the creation of a new award that will honor revered college tennis coach and educator, Dr. Ann Lebedeff, as endowed by sports icon, humanitarian, and friend of college tennis and higher education, Billie Jean King.
The ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award will stand to honor a recent college graduate who played college tennis and demonstrated excellence on and off the court, leadership on his or her team, as well as on his or her college campus and in his or her community. The annual recipient of the award will have demonstrated grit (i.e. passion and perseverance towards long-term goals), a commitment to social justice and equality and will have pushed others to be leaders in addition to demonstrating his or her own leadership.
“Ann Lebedeff is a champion on and off the court and I am so proud to be part of the ITA’s leadership award program that honors Ann’s commitment to our sport,” said Billie Jean King. “By showcasing and celebrating the work of leaders in college sports like Ann, we can create a foundation for growth and success for student athletes.”
ITA Chief Executive Officer Dr. Timothy Russell proclaimed: “Personally, and on behalf of our Association and all of college tennis, I want to thank Billie Jean for her extraordinary leadership and generosity. Her continuing vision for the role of athletics in society and her ongoing commitment to actions that transform lives in our world are an inspiration. It simply does not get any better than knowing we will be paying tribute to Ann Lebedeff and promoting the leaders of tomorrow for years and years to come.”
Nicole Gibbs, a former Stanford Cardinal with two NCAA national singles titles (2011, 2012) and an NCAA national doubles title (2012), is excited about the inclusion of the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award in the ITA Awards program.
“It’s a really important message to send to student-athletes to take on leadership in an academic and cultural setting,” said Gibbs, who advanced to the third round of the 2017 Australian Open and is currently a Top 100-ranked player on the WTA Tour. “This is a great precedent to set, and to have the blessing of Billie Jean King for this special award means a lot, and is something to which individuals will strive.”
A former nationally-ranked junior and collegiate player, Lebedeff won numerous national doubles titles, including the U.S. Amateur Clay and Grass Courts Doubles titles in 1972, the 1974 USTA National Women's Intercollegiate Doubles title, and the 1970 New Zealand Women's Doubles Championships.
Lebedeff, who received her bachelor’s in family studies and consumer sciences, and master’s in physical education from San Diego State University, earned her doctorate in physical education from the University of Southern California in 1990. She served as a coach at San Diego City College, the University of Arizona (1977-85) and Cal Poly Pomona (1989-98), where she also coached the men’s tennis team. Lebedeff’s women’s teams at Cal Poly Pomona won back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles in 1992-93.
In 1998, Lebedeff became Professor and Head Women's Tennis Coach at Pomona and Pitzer colleges, which share an athletics program. The Sagehens have reached the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals seven times under Lebedeff (2001-03, 2007-10), including a semifinals appearance in 2008. In 2000 her doubles team of Sheree Schwartz and Megan Gould won the NCAA Division III Doubles title, while in 2008, Siobhan Finicane won the NCAA Division III Singles title.
A five-time Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year Award honoree (1990, 1992, 2001, 2008 and 2016), Lebedeff was named the Division II women’s tennis ITA/Wilson Coach of the Decade for the 1990’s. She was recognized by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999 with the Tennis Educational Merit Award, which is given to a man and woman who have made notable contributions in the field of tennis education, leadership and promotion of the game.
“I am so honored that Billie Jean King has endowed a Leadership Award in my name,” said Lebedeff. “Billie Jean King has dedicated her life to promoting not only women’s tennis, but to equity in women’s and men’s athletics and education at all levels. More importantly, Billie Jean has been a leader by example for all of us coaches and players who grew up with her dedication and never-ending enthusiasm to improving opportunity for every American. I would not have had the opportunity to coach and mentor all of my wonderful student-athletes had it not been for the courage of Billie Jean King to “stand up” against what were prevailing thoughts and practices in the 1970’s regarding women’s athletics. Billie Jean has been a global leader in initiating ideas, finding ways to implement them, and consequently improving all of our lives in various ways.
“I am so happy the ITA and Billie Jean King are to honor a leader among graduating varsity collegiate athletes who has demonstrated leadership, community involvement, scholarship, and a willingness to “go the extra mile” to promote social justice and equality in today’s world. Again, it is truly an honor to have my name associated with this award,” concluded Lebedeff.
Individuals eligible for the award must have graduated from a four-year American college or university, and have lettered a minimum of two years on the school’s varsity tennis team. During the Fall semester, candidates will submit a letter of application that will include an essay describing the role that tennis and higher education have played in his or her life, the lessons learned, examples of community service, and a description of the candidate’s plans upon graduation, describing hopes and dreams to be pursued. Letters of support on behalf of the candidate must also be submitted by the candidate’s varsity tennis coach, a college professor, and a colleague/teammate.
During the Spring semester, the ITA will select at least three finalists from all of the applications received from the candidates. A dossier pertaining to these candidates, including a letter of support from the player’s college/university president, will be submitted to the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award Selection Panel. The panelists will select at least one recipient each year as the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award winner.
The winner will be honored by the ITA at a special award ceremony (exact location, date and time to be determined each spring), and will receive a specially-engraved gift and a post-graduate scholarship (to be determined annually by the ITA). In addition, the ITA will also donate one-thousand dollars to the tennis program of the institution from which the award winner graduated.
This endowment gift from Billie Jean King to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association is the second from a tennis legend in support of the ITA’s extensive awards program, joining Stan Smith and his wife Margie, who in the Fall of 2015 endowed the ITA David A Benjamin Achievement Award.
About The ITA
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is committed to serving college tennis and returning the leaders of tomorrow. As the governing body of college tennis, the ITA oversees men's and women's varsity tennis at NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College divisions. The ITA administers a comprehensive awards and rankings program for men's and women's varsity players, coaches and teams in all divisions, providing recognition for their accomplishments on and off the court. For more information on the ITA, visit the ITA website at www.itatennis.com, like the ITA on Facebook or follow @ITA_Tennis on Twitter.