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USTA Wyoming welcomes new Executive Director

February 12, 2016 04:08 PM

By Wendy Anderson
USTA Intermountain Marketing and Communications Manager

Mario Ibarra’s first love wasn’t exactly tennis. It was another “court sport” played with shorter-handled racquets popular in the 1970s and 1980s … aptly-if not creatively-named “racquetball”.

But that was then. And this is now. 

Fast forward to February, 2016: Ibarra is taking over the USTA Wyoming Executive Director position (which opened in January) and he’s bringing all of his passion for his latest love … a game with slightly longer racquets.

“I first started to play tennis about eight years ago,” Ibarra explained in a phone interview with USTA Intermountain. “My wife and kids had picked up the sport. And I quickly realized that if I ever wanted to spend time with my wife, I needed to start playing tennis.”

Ibarra, a 59-year-old native and resident of Wyoming his entire life, says he took to the sport quickly.

“I’d been playing racquetball for so many years. I had traveled all over the state … played all over the Rocky Mountain Region, promoting racquetball,” he said, “so I was pretty comfortable with the transition. Two of my sons played tennis in high school, too. Now I think I’ve played tennis in every community in Wyoming that does any type of tournament or event. And some in Northern Colorado, as well.”

Ibarra was born in Powell, Wyoming. His immediate family includes his wife, Troy, and three sons, Jordan (27), Ryne (25), and Tanner (22). He attended junior college in Powell and then went on to the University of Wyoming where he majored in Outdoor Parks and Recreation Administration. After college, Ibarra got into the health club business, managing and owning his own health club in Laramie. When he decided to leave the health club industry, he secured a job with WyoTech where he worked in student programming for the past 26 years until June of 2015.

USTA Intermountain: What drew you to the Wyoming ED position? 

Mario: “Mostly friends who play tennis. I thought of myself as mostly just a player. I’d show up and play and that was it. But the more and more people talked about the position and encouraged me to apply, the more excited I got. There is a great tennis community here. The University has a Division 1 Women’s Tennis team. And the coach is really great about getting the public and the local people to back the Cowgirls. The Cowgirls run events for us and it just fuels the energy for tennis in Wyoming.”

USTA Intermountain: What are most excited about as you take on this new position?

Mario: “I’m really looking forward to meeting new people in the different tennis communities. And introducing more people to tennis. I’ve done that with a lot of my friends here and it’s really rewarding. Whether it’s introducing the publisher of the newspaper here to tennis … or members of the United Way Board … now we have new people out playing and then they introduce the sport to others. It just snowballs. It’s great!”

USTA Intermountain: What other interests do you enjoy? (If you were not playing tennis, what would you be doing?)

Mario: “Cross country skiing; anything outdoors including hiking, fishing, hunting and horseback riding.”

USTA Intermountain: What is your favorite “pump up” song? 

Mario: “Old-school rock. I’m still stuck in the 70s!”

USTA Intermountain: What is your favorite tennis mantra? 

Mario: “I say, ‘Vamos!’ quite often on court … aka Rafael Nadal.”

USTA Intermountain: Who is your favorite tennis player?

Mario: “Overall, my favorite is probably Federer. I really respect that he’s still out there and that you haven’t seen very many injuries or heard any excuses from him.” 

USTA Intermountain: What is your favorite food?

Mario: “I love to try new things. When we go out, we try different things. Something we have never had before.”

USTA Intermountain: What is your guilty pleasure? 

Mario: “Dark chocolate and Alaskan Amber. (Although you probably shouldn’t divulge the Alaskan Amber part!) When our teams from Wyoming gave out cozies with beer brewed in Jackson … Man! We were very popular!” 

USTA Intermountain: What is the last book you read? 

Mario: “I really like Brad Taylor and Lee Child … military mysteries. I just finished ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi and ‘The Tennis Partner’ by Abraham Verghese.”

USTA Intermountain: One last question: Do you and your wife play mixed doubles together?

Mario: “Sometimes. But only as long as I can keep my mouth shut!”