A trailblazer of Wyoming tennis is once again being recognized for her contributions in the state.
Marie Robertson, known to many as the “mother of Wyoming tennis” is set to be honored with a spot in the United State Tennis Association’s Intermountain Hall of Fame next month. Robertson, who did everything from prep courts to track rankings for the state, was critical in rebuilding tennis opportunities for athletes of all ages.
Robertson died Feb. 1, 2020, but her impact will forever live on, as she opened doors for players across Wyoming to receive an opportunity to compete at a high level.
The USTA, the national governing body of tennis, is broken up into 17 regions, and Robertson will be Wyoming’s very first inductee into the exclusive group of athletes.
A native of Casper, Robertson grew up a rancher, and wasn’t familiar with the sport for a large portion of her life. All changed when Robertson got older and found opportunities to compete in a newfound hobby. In 1972 the Robertsons built a second home in Jackson Hole in The Aspens, where Marie and her husband, Robert, began playing tennis at the Court Club (later acquired by Teton Pines).
A lifelong accountant, Marie studied at the University of Wyoming and brought her secretarial background into the sport by learning how to use computers to develop manual databases to track statistics and rankings for competition across the state.
“She figured out how to [use computers] and apply it to tennis, which was really innovative at the time,” her daughter Grace Robertson said. “There was not an existing rankings system; it was all done manually. [Marie] took her secretarial background and applied it to tennis and really helped transition into the computing age.”
Growing up on a ranch, Marie Robertson wasn’t familiar with the technologies available, but in her mid-50s she taught herself how to use computers so she could open doors for others in the sport.
Following her death, Robertson’s loved ones found countless books on computers that she used to educate herself in order to best serve the community of athletes.
While many young athletes growing up in Wyoming didn’t have a voice, Robertson acted as one, providing opportunities that many her age didn’t have available growing up.
People from Wyoming “often get left out or tend to be insular and are just happy to be a part of the state,” Grace said. “She saw the importance of [tennis] being national, the tournaments being sanctioned and run according to all the rules in order for the players to be eligible for a national ranking.”
Though Robertson was based in Wyoming, her contributions gave in-state athletes opportunities to compete elsewhere.
“She made sure Wyoming players had opportunities on a national basis,” Grace said. “She thought that was very important.”
An organized woman by nature, Robertson held positions all over the state and was one of the founding members of the Wyoming Tennis Association, a nonprofit that works with towns to increase opportunities for competition.
“She used to say to us, ‘Someone has to do the work to make these things happen, and if you have the capability then you should do the work.’ Sometimes I remember her saying that, and now I’ve actually been over-volunteering myself,” her daughter joked.
After making Jackson a second home, Robertson helped found the Jackson Hole Old Fossils Tennis Tournament alongside friend Dave Luebbe. The event took place until 2005, bringing members of the USTA community together for friendly competition at Teton Pines.
Known for her tremendous displays of sportsmanship, Robertson leaves a legacy in the sport that is carried on through the Marie Robertson Lifetime Achievement award — an honor given by the Wyoming USTA to commend excellence in the sport — and the Marie Robertson traveling trophy, which commends excellence in sportsmanship, volunteerism, hard work, time and service, all while exemplifying a sense of fair play.
In 1996, Sheri Carlisle — who Robertson brought on as an executive director of the Wyoming Tennis Association — wrote this in an Oct. 28 letter to the Wyoming Board of Directors regarding Robertson as a nominee for the David Freed award, given to a volunteer who made a significant impact in the sport:
“Marie’s love of the game and of people means that she is always there, ready to help, wherever she can. If it rains at tournament time, Marie is always there with her own squeegee, getting the courts ready to play.
“If the tournament desk is short of volunteers, Marie fills whatever spot is unmanned. If someone needs a hitting partner, Marie is there, whatever the level. If an out-of-town player needs a bed, Marie offers a home away from home.”
Robertson received the award at the 88th annual Intermountain Tennis Association meeting in Boise, Idaho.
While there is no Hall of Fame induction ceremony planned, a narrated video will be posted on the Wyoming USTA website, at Wyoming.USTA.com
All are welcome to view it when it’s available, as Robertson has her name etched as one of the most influential tennis athletes in the history of the state.
“She made sure Wyoming players had opportunities on a national basis. She thought that was very important.” — Grace Robertson Daughter of marie robertson, known to many as the ‘mother of wyoming tennis’