Roberg Nets West Region Arthur Ashe Award for Women's Tennis

News Release Date:
Monday, July 16, 2012


WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- It's not all about the tennis for Alyssa Roberg, who recently became the first Whitman College women's player to be honored with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's West Region Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship.

Roberg, who starts her senior year this fall, was nominated by her coach, John Hein, who raves about her ongoing development as a player, person and leader.

While a major on-court contributor from the start of her time on campus, Roberg blossomed as a Whitman junior, Hein says.

Photo Top Page

 That's Alyssa Roberg, lobbing an oversized ball to a little lefty during
a Campus Kids Day
at Whitman's Bratton Tennis Center

She led Whitman into the NCAA Division III national championships, collecting Northwest Conference Player of the Year honors in the process, while continuing to evolve as a team leader, proponent of good sportsmanship and contributor to the world around her. 

"Even in the most intense matches as she fires up teammates with big shots and loud support, Alyssa maintains the highest standard of fair play and sportsmanship, earning praise from coaches and opponents for how hard she competes and brings out the best in those she plays with and against," Hein says.

After spending last summer studying rural and urban education in South Africa, Roberg returned to campus last fall to help Hein guide a roster that included nine first- and second-year players.

"Alyssa immediately set the tone for our most successful team season in more than a decade," Hein says. "Her work ethic, incredible support for each and every teammate, and her unrelenting positive attitude continue to inspire. Off court, our team is more active in the community and spending more time together in large part because of her initiative and organizational efforts."

While Roberg's leadership ability has "always been amazing in a group setting, she now spends more time taking a teammate aside after practice or on campus to encourage and counsel them," Hein says. "This softer leadership style is vital to our team's cohesion and success."

Hein also counts Roberg's many volunteer activities as her "greatest strength as a leader and sportswoman."

Roberg's interest in finding better ways to educate the youngest
among us took her to South Africa last summer.

As a first-year student at Whitman, Roberg helped Hein set up a Tennis in Schools program at two Walla Walla elementary schools.

"Through that program, Campus Kids Day events and youth tennis clinics, 'Coach Alyssa' has become well known and loved among the youth of Walla Walla," he says.

While juggling her tennis activities and school work at Whitman, Roberg also finds time to mentor youngsters at a Walla Walla elementary school and offer her friendship to the elderly through Whitman's Adopt-A-Grandparent program at a local retirement center.

Roberg's volunteer work began several years ago with Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services in her hometown of Scotts Bluff, Calif. She takes her dog to convalescent homes to spend time with "residents who are lonely, do not get many visitors, and always appreciate the friendly wag of a tail or sloppy kiss from a dog," she says. 

She and dog Keana are also getting certified this summer to visit libraries as part of a Reading Buddies program, which is based on the concept that young children with reading difficulties feel more confident reading out loud to always supportive dogs.

Her early volunteer efforts include two charity tennis tournaments she organized while still enrolled in Santa Cruz High School. One of those tourneys benefited a disaster relief effort; the other aided a support program for children with cancer.

Roberg, who is majoring in psychology at Whitman, plans to focus her ongoing studies on the "different ways that children learn, especially those children with learning difficulties.

Roberg and canine partner Keana.

"To gain some first-hand experience, I spent last summer in South Africa on a School for International Training program, where I learned about education reform and spent time in rural and urban schools.

"Observing and teaching in these classrooms further developed my interest in learning about various teaching methods and discovering new ways that best benefit students who have learning differences."

In addition to her psychology major, Roberg is pursuing an education minor and plans to pursue a career in special education or educational research involving young students.

At home this summer in Scotts Bluff, Roberg is giving youth tennis lessons, working as a camp counselor and volunteering with the family of 11-year-old twin autistic boys. The family is using the Son-Rise Program, a progressive, home-based treatment program that encourages parents to accept, love and celebrate their autistic children in lieu of following more traditional punishment-and-reward approaches.

Results of this shift in focus -- away from attempts to discourage ritualistic behaviors in favor of celebrating each child's differences -- include "improved eye contact and other forms of social interaction, which this program believes is the most important thing if one hopes to lead a successful, normal life," Roberg says.

As Roberg led the Whitman women's team last spring to its first-ever trip to the NCAA DIII national tournament, she also was voted to the Academic All-District At-Large Team. That team represents several sports and dozens of schools in a geographic area that encompasses 21 western states, stretching from Hawaii and Alaska to as far east as Texas, Louisiana and Iowa.

Roberg kicked off her junior year by earning ITA All-American honors last fall. She qualified for October's ITA National Small College Championships by winning the regional singles title and joining first-year teammate Courtney Lawless to snare the doubles title.

While earning NWC Player of the Year honors in the spring, and netting All-NWC First Team honors for the third time in three seasons, Roberg rose to No. 3 in the West Region singles rankings. She and Lawless also finished the spring at No. 3 in the regional doubles rankings.

It's no coincidence, Roberg notes, that her efforts to make positive contributions are centered around tennis, children and animals, three of her greatest joys in life.

"I believe that the best way to make a difference in the world is to let my passions dictate my path in life," she says. "In this way, I can be truly committed to causes, and bring genuine energy, enthusiasm and excitement to them."

The ITA's Arthur Ashe awards honor the memory of one of America's most revered tennis players, activists, humanitarians and educators. After winning NCAA individual and team titles at UCLA in 1965, Ashe became the first African American to be named to the U.S. Davis Cup, win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and rise to No. 1 in the world rankings.

Ashe founded numerous charitable organizations and received honorary doctoral degrees from several colleges and universities, including Dartmouth and Princeton. After contracting AIDS through a tainted blood transfusion, he passed away in 1993 at the age of 50.

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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902;