It’s been more than 35 years since Ronald Reagan stated, during his first inaugural address, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.” We discovered heroes in every state, starting with the determined 69-year-old who won a match at an ITF Pro Circuit event earlier this year in the Alabama town of Pelham, and culminating with the coach who has overcome multiple sclerosis to build a winning program at the University of Wyoming. Their compelling stories of courage, perseverance and achievement demonstrate that the message delivered by our 40th President rings as true today as it did then.
The stereotypes are true. Cold weather and cornfields are facts of life in Sioux Falls, SD. Mayor Mike Huether and his wife, Cindy, have made it their mission to add tennis to that list of South Dakota staples, and they have consistently put their money where their mouths are.
Since 2009, the couple has donated over $800,000 of its personal funds to build new indoor and outdoor facilities. Serving as executive director of the Sioux Falls Tennis Association, Cindy has also played a leading role in rehabilitating park courts in the growing city of more than 250,000.
It’s easy to assume that the Huethers are lifelong players with a family legacy of tennis enthusiasts. Not quite. They first picked up the game in 1999 when their daughter, Kylie, started taking lessons. A few summers spent traveling to USTA tournaments had the whole family hooked.
“People have this perception that we’re really good tennis players,” Cindy says with a laugh. “That’s really not the case.”
The Huethers more than offset any on-court deficiencies with their passion for making the game accessible to everyone. In 2010, they worked with a local team to open the six-court Huether Tennis Centre, a public, outdoor facility on the grounds of Augustana University in the heart of Sioux Falls.
As a result of their efforts, the USTA named Mike, Cindy and Kylie the Tennis Family of the Year in 2011—but the Huethers were not finished yet. Despite the fact that Mike was busy running for mayor at the time, he joined Cindy in spearheading a campaign to build a public, indoor facility.
“Once it was on the to-do list, I needed to follow through no matter how hard it was,” Mike says.
He won the mayoral race in 2010 and was reelected in 2014. The Huether Family Match Pointe celebrated its grand opening the following spring, with a little help from an appearance by former world No. 4 James Blake. The facility cost more than $4 million to build, but patrons pay just $5 for an hour of court time.
“I don’t want my legacy to be a name on a building,” Cindy says. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about providing access for everyone to play.”