Southwest Florida tennis column

As a volunteer, Sibo Kangwa’s tennis coaching and organizational skills are making a big impact in Southwest Florida. And it’s only fitting that she be recognized as she celebrates Black History Month during February.

Singled out as USTA Florida’s “Volunteer of the Month” for February, she says she’s honored and that she feels strongly about the annual recognition of the contributions of people of color to improve lives in the U.S.

“We celebrate all of our tennis players, regardless of race and gender,” Kangwa said.

After sending two children to Division I programs in two different sports, being named high school tennis coach of the year and attracting the attention of the USTA Florida Coaches Commission for her high-producing juniors, the humble pro has made a name for herself in tennis circles.

“Sibo is so unusual in that she is a black woman in a predominantly white male coaching fraternity, establishing herself as a respected professional whose volunteer participation on the USTA Florida Coaches’ Commission and Youth Tennis Progression Regional Advisory Group will have widespread impact,” said Lyn Bruner of the local Lee County Community Tennis Association. “She works tirelessly on behalf of our sport.”

Kangwa originally came to tennis through her Davis Cup-playing husband Patrick, who she met while competing for the Zambia National Volleyball Team at the Olympics-style All-African Games, while he competed in tennis.

“After we married, Patrick constantly teased me about volleyball, and that I needed to pick up a racket, not realizing that I would actually do so and end up loving the sport,” she said.

The couple emigrated to Florida, and after her new friends repeatedly asked her to play tennis, she said “the rest is history.” Tennis became a family affair, and Kangwa eventually began teaching and coaching high school tennis.

All three of her children played high school tennis, among other sports. Daughter Muki played Division I volleyball, and daughter Thandiwe plays Division I tennis at Seton Hall. Kangwa was named high school coach of the year her first year, and is currently in her third year as coach at the Canterbury School.

Her teaching and organizational expertise led to her being named the tennis director at Three Oaks Park in Fort Myers.

Kangwa says she enjoys working with players age 10 and younger. She seems them as the future players and ambassadors of the game.

Sterling Oaks takes tourney reins: Sneak Pete apparently has come clean — at least the Sneaky Pete tennis tournament that has been held in Southwest Florida for years. The event isn’t “Sneaky” anymore.

Now simply called The Sterling Oaks Spring Championship Tennis Tournament, the 2016 version is sponsored by Hamilton Mikes and Fish Crazy will be held March 12-19. Registration for the tournament is now open.

Opening rounds begin on Saturday, March 12 and play continues through Saturday, March 19, with 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 and Open divisions in men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Prizes will be awarded in each division with cash awards in the Open competition that always attracts many of the top local players to the Sterling Oaks clay courts.

The deadline to register is Wednesday, March 9. Players may register online through the Sterling Oaks website at www.SterlingOaksTennis.com. Call 239-566-1800 for more.

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