Manset Morreale brings business acumen to SB Round Table

Catharine Manset Morreale grew up on the tennis courts of Santa Barbara. She smashed forehands and backhands at Knowlwood Tennis Club, the beautiful complex that her parents helped start, and was a standout player for Bishop Diego High and UCSB.

You won’t find her on a court these days, but you will find her bringing her “A” game in business and management to the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table.

New Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table President Catharine Manset Morreale

New Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table President Catharine Manset Morreale

Manset Morreale is the new president of the community organization of volunteers that supports local athletes and sports programs. She becomes the second woman in more than 40 years to hold the top position. Joan Russell Price, a longtime member of the SBART board of directors, was the first in the early 1990s.

Manset Morreale will preside over her first Round Table Press Luncheon on Monday, Sept. 14 at Harry’s Plaza Cafe. The weekly noontime luncheons feature local prep and college coaches talking about their teams and introducing their athletes as well as the presentation of athletic and academic awards.

At Monday’s first luncheon of the 2009-10 school year, the SBART will be handing out approximately $1,000 each to five high school athletic directors. The money was raised from the organization’s High Five Tennis Tournament.

Manset Morreale agreed to lead the Round Table after president-elect Paul Gamberdella decided to bow out after learning his wife was expecting their fifth child. Gamberdella was to replace Rick Wilson, who had completed his two-year term.

“The Board development committee then asked me if I would be interested in taking over,” she said. “As we (Manset and her husband Phil Morreale) were just sending our youngest off to college, I felt I could devote the time to the position and thought it would be a great way to serve our local community.”

Rich Hanna of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department is the president-elect.

Manset Morreale is a banker — she works at Community West Bank as the Regional Vice President specializing in business and commercial lending — and she is banking on her financial expertise to help the SBART during these tough economic times.

“I would like to help the organization successfully weather this time and also help to transition the organization to make better use of available technology. We have some great, young board members helping us to move in this direction,” she said.

Although she admits that she’s not a big sports fan, Manset Morreale incorporates sports into her daily life, “and I am a believer in the importance of sports for our youth.”

She got involved with the SBART four years ago as a volunteer in the Women in Sports Luncheon, a special event that recognizes female athletes, coaches and supporters of women’s athletics. Manset Morreale was so moved by the program that she agreed to co-chair the luncheon the next year. She continued in that role for three straight years.

“I believe that sports is especially important for high school girls to allow them to develop a sense of self-worth outside of looks, boys and even, to a certain extent, grades,” she said. “Along with the health benefits, sports can provide focus and can teach how to set and achieve goals.  It also helps one to learn how to deal with success and failure and how to effectively compete in all aspects of life. In addition, it can teach how not to give up, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances as exemplified by my brother Jacques’ long battle with cancer.”

She calls Jacques and Helena the famous ones from the family of seven siblings of George and Peggy Manset. Jacques, also a Bishop Diego grad, was an All-American player for a national championship tennis team at UCLA  in 1982 and was a ranked player on the ATP Tour. He has successfully battled advanced melanoma since the age of 33 and continues to play tennis. He is married and lives with his wife and three children in Ventura.

Helena also earned All-American honors at UCLA after graduating from Santa Barbara High. She was a WTA Tour-ranked player, and currently is the No. 1-rated player in her age group in Canada, where she now lives with her husband and two children.

After finishing her collegiate career at UCSB, Manset Morreale “dabbled” on the European tennis circuit and did a stint with a national development team in Guadalajara, Mexico.

She returned home, hung up the racket and decided to put her energy into education. She transferred to UCLA, where she earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in economics and history, and then earned a Masters in Business Administration from Drake University.

Manset Morreale and her husband have two daughters: Jessica, 24, a third-year student at USF law school, and Ali, a second-year student at UC Irvine.

She doesn’t play tennis anymore, but has become an avid runner.

“I competed in my first marathon at age 26 (Drake Relays) and have been a runner ever since. My husband and I usually compete in one ‘interesting’ event a year,” she said.

Having grown up in a family that was involved in athletics, Manset Morreale said she is familiar with the aspects of the Santa Barbara sports community.

That will serve her well as SBART president.

“I grew up playing tennis and continue to run daily, our younger daughter competed in water polo and swimming, my husband is a surfer/kayaker/runner. Sports continue to be an important part of our lives.”