May 2015 -- When Ann Dunwoody retired in 2012 as the Armed Forces’ first female four-star general, she could look back at a 38-year Army career and a profound legacy. Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno said, “Ann is a leader who lived our Army values, who always led from the front. Her true legacy and reward will be the thousands of soldiers and civilians whose lives she has touched.”
Dunwoody continues to touch thousands, including the children and spouses of America’s soldiers, by signing on to ThanksUSA’s Tennis Thanks the Troops campaign in partnership with USPTA. A national non-profit organization, ThanksUSA provides scholarships to children and spouses of America’s Armed Forces.
Dunwoody is also busy with speeches, the spring release of a book, and plans to play tennis at her USPTA club near her home in Tampa. [Recent hip replacement surgery and travel are interfering – for the moment.]
A chat with Ann Dunwoody:
You must be quite the tennis player, having played the sport in college (1971-75). We had tennis teams that competed against other colleges, but back then there were no scholarships or varsity letters for women who excelled in sports. With my incredible (SUNY) coach, Sylvia Stokes, I never even thought about Title IX for women. We felt like an all-star team and had a winning record to support it. I was so happy to be part of a team that I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned a lot from winning as I did from losing, and I learned a lot about teamwork and team spirit. Those lifelong lessons stayed with me throughout my military career and made me a better leader and person.
Has tennis been a passion for your family? I learned to play tennis from my mom and dad and brothers and sisters back in junior high school. An afternoon on the tennis courts was a family outing for us. Even after I was in the Army, every visit home involved a tennis match or two with Mom and Dad. When I met my husband, Craig, our first date was a tennis match with the loser having to make dinner. I lost the match, but Craig still made dinner [smiles]. We continued to play tennis, often motivated by my mom who continued to play in her 80s. She was a fierce competitor. I know if there is tennis in heaven, she is on the court right now.
Have you received training from a tennis professional? Yes, I went to Lew Hoad’s tennis camp in Spain back in the 1960s, and got to see first-hand what finesse, talent, and top-notch performance looked like on the court. He inspired all of us in the camp to be better by working hard and not giving up. Practice, practice, and more practice. I watched him, I learned from him, and I tried to replicate his moves on the court.
What do tennis and your military career have in common? Fitness and coaching. The military is a very demanding profession, both physically and mentally, and so is tennis. You have to be in great shape and on your toes at all times in both professions. As good players become more senior, they become good coaches to teach and share their experiences with the next generation.
The Army is no different. It is the senior leadership of the Army’s responsibility to teach and coach the next generation waiting on the bench.
How important to military families are post-secondary school scholarships, like those from ThanksUSA? I think that great performance and hard work should be rewarded. And that’s exactly what these scholarships do. Reinforcement of good performance inspires even better performance. I think education and sports are both critical components in good leadership. They go hand in hand: Being mentally and physically fit, as well as having the education and the intellectual tools to prepare students for success in the real world.
So you encourage USPTA and tennis enthusiasts everywhere to get involved in supporting our troops. I encourage every organization, tennis, business industry and colleges where I speak, to reach out to welcome our troops home and make sure that their quality of life is equal to their quality of service.
America’s servicemen and women are volunteers. Do we say “thank you” often enough? I think a lot of Americans are trying to help and there are a lot of wonderful organizations that have made a huge difference for our service men and women. There is always more work to be done.