Lake Oswego pro Anni Miller becomes Hall of Fame's first Pacific Northwest member

Anni Miller sits at the table during the ceremony for her Hall of Fame induction.Her induction into the United States Professional Tennis Association Hall of Fame has again proven just how special Anni Miller is.

Before cheering family members, friends and tennis fans, the long-time Lake Oswego tennis pro became the first member of the Hall's Pacific Northwest Division during ceremonies June 7-8 at the Central Park Tennis Club in Seattle.

“Somehow," Miller said, "I cut the mustard. This is really very super. I feel so fortunate and excited.”

In her acceptance speech, Miller told the audience that while it is great to be in the Hall of Fame, it's even better to be in the Hall of Fame while she's stiill alive.

“I know a lot of people who have passed on before being voted into the Hall of Fame,” Miller said, “including my brother (who was voted into the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame) two years ago.”

Miller hasn't lost an ounce of the burning energy that fired her 38-year career as a tennis pro, and she said she plans to use her new-found notoriety to promote the game she loves and push for changes that will make the sport even better.

Despite her remarkable record of nurturing winners, Miller has never been about turning children into tennis machines. One of her goals is to point young players and their families away from the win-at-all-costs philosophy that has come to dominate the sport — a philosophy that forces children into elite competition too soon, she said, often to the exclusion of everything else.

Kids and their families should just go out and have some fun, Miller said.

“Tennis is never about hitting the ball,” Miller said. “It’s about the human touch. It’s about the relationships with people.”

Miller grew up in Southern California, where she said she had an ideal childhood. She was a sports-crazy kid who played tennis with such greats as Billie Jean King and Bob Lutz, was a surfer girl, and competed in every sport she could think of.

Yet Miller said that becoming a coach was not on her radar until she moved to Lake Oswego in 1976. She fell victim to the age-old youth sports plea of, “Please! We can’t get anyone else.”

“I got sucked in when my daughter was in second grade,” Miller said. “I was asked, ‘How would you like to coach Lassie League (softball)? There is no one else to do it.’"

So she agreed, and ended up leading a Lassie League team that never lost.

But tennis was Miller’s favorite sport, and she soon became the pro at the Lake Oswego Tennis Center. “They had no programs,” Miller said. “I thought, ‘I can get this going.’"

Miller used camps, leagues and classes to create an army of racquet-carrying tennis lovers. She influenced the development of several generations of players, not only in Lake Oswego but throughout the Northwest.

Through it all, she never thought of herself as their coach, though, but as their friends.

“I made lifelong connections with them,” Miller said. “I went to weddings and graduations, and sometimes I spoke at their funerals.”

The 66-year-old Miller says she intends to bask for a little while in the glow of her new status as a Hall of Fame tennis pro. Then she will go right back to teaching, coaching and speaking, just like always.

Rest on her laurels? Not Miller. Her 2015 schedule already includes speaking engagements in Rome during the Italian Open, as well as stops in Maryland and California.

The message she'll spread: “Have fun, be healthy and fit, enjoy your friends and family, and do what you can for others.”

Words worthy of a Hall of Famer, to be sure.

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