This is part one of a five-part series about tennis in your community, where we will recognize the contributions of several individuals who are funneling their passion for tennis into growing the sport in their own communities across the country.
After moving to Whitehorse, Yukon full-time with her family in 2000, Stacy Lewis began to feel like something was missing. Growing up around tennis – her dad was a tennis pro and managed tennis clubs – she wanted her kids to know the joy of the sport as well. The city had four outdoor courts which weren’t being utilized, and Lewis took action.
Alongside a few other former players, she started the non-profit Tennis Yukon in 2007 and became part of Tennis Canada’s Building Tennis Communities (BTC) program shortly thereafter. Adding a full-time certified coach really helped them get off the ground, and now the courts – which were resurfaced in 2011 – are very well-used.
Lewis says they have about 150-180 players participating recreationally or in their programs every summer, which includes tennis in schools and cardio tennis. In the winter, play moves into the gym as the city currently has no indoor tennis facility, though a feasibility study was recently done and lays the groundwork for moving forward in the future.
Proudest accomplishment: “Putting tennis here back on the map. And our partnerships are probably what I’m proudest of. We run multisport camps with a number of organizations in the summer. We have a partnership with the city and the schools. We’ve worked with Girl Guides and First Nations groups and community groups. That’s what I’m proudest of, we are really plugged in and I think that’s been a great piece of us growing.”
Goals for the future: “A year-round facility would definitely be at the top of that list. We’re really looking to increase our participation, which is tied into that. If we can even double our participation in the next three years, those two things will feed off each other more and more. The more we can keep adding players to the list, then the better our chances are of moving forward with an indoor facility. It’s all tied in.”
A piece of advice: “Stay positive. People will respond to positive. Staying positive can be challenging when you’ve had some setbacks but people do respond to it and they will come.”
Overcoming distance with unique programming
While Whitehorse isn’t the only community in Canada that deals with a long winter and lack of indoor facilities, distance is a unique challenge for Tennis Yukon. For example, it is more expensive to travel, so their kids tend to have less competitive opportunities and typically play against the same players all the time.
Lewis has tried to come up with new ways to give the Whitehorse tennis community more chances to play. They have developed relationships with Yellowknife and Juneau to bring athletes back and forth.
“We started the beginnings of a partnership with Yellowknife and developing a tennis camp that will reach out to people in northern communities,” she said. “We have a Coach 2 certified coach here so he ran the inaugural week of that camp and we had kids from Alaska and Northwest Territories come so that’s great and that’s something we can pursue and do more.”
They also have a twice yearly tournament with Juneau, which at 10 hours away is the closest city to Whitehorse.
Another big factor in overcoming distance has been the BTC program, which Lewis says has helped Whitehorse feel connected to the greater Canadian tennis community.
“It definitely would have been harder to be standing here 10 years later if there hadn’t been that sharing of knowledge and help and support from other people. It would have been easy to feel isolated and get dejected so being part of that has been a huge piece of us continuing and trying to grow more.”
What is it about tennis that motivates you to keep going?
“Giving someone something that’s fun to do. Providing them with the tools to do something they’ll enjoy their whole life. That to me is a real gift to people and you see it all the time when people have big smiles on their faces when they’re out there playing. That’s the biggest thing for me.”