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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 3 weeks ago

Game, set, master’s degree: Organization steps up support for athletes' futures

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The Women's Tennis Association partners with the University of Florida to provide post-career education for its players.

Although headquartered in downtown St. Petersburg, the Women’s Tennis Association keeps a low profile locally, preferring to let superstars, such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, generate headlines on an international level whenever one of its tournaments sweeps into a city.

WTA players’ careers have lengthened considerably — Serena and her older sister, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, are both in their late 30s and still playing well — but the organization also wants to set up its athletes for second-act success. And because there are only so many high-profile tennis broadcasting jobs to go around, that means education will be a big contributor to off-court careers.

That's why in a partnership with the University of Florida and the Women’s Tennis Benefit Association, the WTA agreed to subsidize in-state tuition for members who enroll in any of eight online master’s degree programs offered by the UF College of Journalism and Communications and four at the UF College of Health & Human Performance.

"We are thrilled to announce our agreement with the University of Florida's Colleges of Health and Human Performance and the College of Journalism and Communications to provide WTA players the opportunity to earn a master's degree,” WTBA Executive Director Lisa Grattan states in a press release. “With so many of the WTA players earning bachelor's degrees these past seven years, we look forward to seeing this partnership with such an esteemed establishment as the University of Florida succeed.”

Now WTA members will be able to earn master’s degrees in areas including audience analytics, digital strategy, global strategic communication, political communication, public interest communication, public relations, social media and web design. If their interests instead lead them to UF's College of Health & Human Performance, then players can study applied physiology and kinesiology with a concentration in human performance, health education and behavior and tourism and recreation management with a specialization in hospitality business management.

“Our programs are a natural fit for WTA members,” states Michael Sagas, a professor and director of online and distance education at UFHHP, in the release “And we will benefit from the experiences they bring to our classes as much as the WTA students will benefit from the expertise of our faculty.”

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