Sports Figure of the Month: Ethel Byers

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Ethel Byers is retiring from the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table at the end of this school year after a long history of terrific service to the local athletic community.

Long-time sports enthusiast – a prototype of selfless community service – and both a leader and often behind-the-scenes-volunteer fixture at a zillion local athletic venues – Ethel Byers, has been named Presidio Sports’ Sports Figure of the Month for March, 2011.

Byers, a Santa Barbara native, is wrapping up a distinguished volunteer career serving area high school sports with her upcoming retirement from the Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable (SBART) — the backdrop for spotlighting and celebrating a seemingly near-lifetime of tireless community commitment.

A volunteer career served with always a positive, can-do, make-it-happen approach, happily tending to every minute administrative detail — perhaps, aided by her ‘real career’ in public accounting — to ensure smooooth, successful and efficient operation of many athletic organizations.

She lives that classic Carly Simon lyric, “Nobody does it better…”

And those who know the good-natured and ever-so-humble-Byers predict she’ll very likely be both surprised and uncomfortable with all this award attention …

“No one deserves more credit and publicity than Ethel … and you know she will give the ‘‘I’m not worthy!’ response,” says Marc Gamberdella of SBART fame.

Incredible … smart … passionate … dedicated … amazing … caring … fun are among the descriptors to assess her impact and influence on the local sports scene.

In fact, with baseball season now in full swing, let’s go to ‘The Ethel Scoreboard’ …

  • Run Tennis Patrons – In the books!!
  • Sports event planning – Piece of cake!!
  • 6:30 a.m. registration – Already there!!
  • Last minute details – Got ‘em!!
  • Deposit SBART lunch $$ – Done!!
  • Stuffing tennis goodie bags – Good to go!!
  • Move mountains – No one better!!

And check out what these stellar community leaders say about her …

“When I worked for the City of Santa Barbara, Ethel was the Tennis Patrons director and ran all the youth tennis tournaments …. incredible with all the work and time she gave to the local youth tennis community … a long-time volunteer for the track and running community … led Elings Park ‘Day on Center Court’ tennis tourney for several years … a great volunteer and community-minded person … an amazing SBART volunteer for many, many years … a sports honor so well deserved!”

Joan Price, Executive Director, Montecito YMCA

“Ethel has been behind the tournament desk of countless athletic events in SB – tennis, running seniors … is always the unsung hero doing all the hard work without the big recognition … want to personally thank her for giving me the chance to compete is all the City Championship tennis tournaments and those glorious New Years morning 10Ks along the beach front … so consistently generous in donating her time but also her money to every fundraiser involving high school sports …”

John Kinsella, Tennis Director, La Cumbre Country Club

“A few organizations are lucky enough to find someone who does the heavy lifting….over and over, with quality and enjoyment and without complaint … I can think of at least four organizations where she worked tirelessly….and brilliantly…for the members: SBAA, the local running club, has several races (Resolution Day, 4th of July 15K, Half Marathon), and for years I knew Ethel as the lady who was always there at 6:30 am for signups … she did great things for the UCSB Men’s Tennis Team, and her hard work and organization for the Tennis Patrons are legendary … for SBART, more than a few folks have wondered….”how did we manage before Ethel?”… she is a treasure!”

Joe Howell, Howell Moore & Gough LLP

“… Ethel Byers is a saint in my book … gives freely of her time and energy to make the SBART work …incredibly smart when it comes to moving mountains …”

Chris Casebeer, Casebeer & Company

“Ethel’s enthusiasm, love, loyalty and passion for Tennis in the Santa Barbara community is unparalleled and her dedication to running the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons for many years in the late ’80s and ’90s was amazing … she volunteers of her time at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara because she loves being around tennis and, of course, she loves helping others to have fun and enjoy the sport … if more people had the passion for tennis that Ethel Byers does, our sport would be so much better and more popular.”

Mark Basham, SB Tennis Club Pro and Westmont Tennis Coach

“ …. regardless of the endeavor, Ethel’s only concern is how she can give (not what she might get in return) … she focuses on how she can improve the lives of those around her (not what recognition is in it for her) …while there are many prominent and recognizable faces in our Santa Barbara community, non- profit and otherwise, Ethel Byers is our heartbeat.”

Marc Gamberdella, VP, Global Wealth Management, MERRILL LYNCH

“Ethel is the ‘Queen Mother’ of Santa Barbara Tennis! I can only hope to fill her crown.”

Elizabeth Winterhalter, President, Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons

And about that one unique quality often hard to pinpoint about Byers, perhaps CathyAnn Simon (no relation to Carly), Executive Director of Tennis Patrons of Santa Barbara, puts it best…

“She has a knack of always remembering something about you, about everybody – what tournaments you played and how you did — and always makes you feel special. And she is very special too. Ethel is like a second mom to me and is always very generous with any organization that she believes in.”

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With Byers’ soon SBART retirement, there will more time for the loves in her life – family, grandkids, and, of course, tennis. You won’t have to look very far– she’ll likely be at her “home away from home” – still helping at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara.

She certainly lives that sports adage: ‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’

But, there is an ‘E’.

And ‘the locals’ know…  It will always lovingly stand for Ethel.

Ethel Byers received the R.F. MacFarland Memorial Trophy at SBART’s 2009 Hall of Fame Dinner. A brief description of the award and on her contributions to local athletics follows…

R.F. MacFarland Memorial Trophy R.F. MacFarland was one of the founders of Semana Nautica in 1936. This award is given annually to the person or organization who best exemplifies community leadership in the area of sports and athletics. It is sponsored by the Elks Club, Recreation Department, local media and the Semana Nautica Association.

Ethel Mae Heacock Byers, a Santa Barbara native, has been a faithful servant to local athletics for the last three decades. Attending local schools, she married Dale Byers and had three children, who have also given her three grandchildren.

Byers has worked in public accounting for most of her professional career, but her labor of love in athletics began about 30 years ago when her son Danny was playing junior tennis. She was asked to help at a Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons Tournament at the Kellogg Courts in Goleta and, as Ethel described it, “ That was the beginning of a fabulous relationship with the sport of tennis.”

She has served on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons, helping with
tournaments through most of that time. Byers also worked on committees at the sectional level of the United States Tennis Association and has served as tournament director for several national championships. For the past decade, she has served as Assistant Tournament Director to Larry Mousouris for the USTA’s Men’s 50-and-Over National Hard Court Championships, which are held annually at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara.

At about the same time Byers began her service with the Tennis Patrons, the late Callie Brennand introduced her to the local running community. Ethel and Dale soon became best friends with Callie and John Brennand, and both lent their help at all the road runs sponsored by the Santa Barbara Athletic Association. Byers still offers her service for the Santa Barbara Half Marathon.

Byers later volunteered her help to the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, serving on its board of directors while managing its database.

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