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