This is the final article of a five-part series about tennis in your community, where we recognized the contributions of several individuals who are funneling their passion for tennis into growing the sport in their own communities across the country.
It is thanks to the love of a woman that Michel D’Aoust fell in love with tennis.
Having played tennis off and on for a while, it wasn’t until 2001 when he met a woman who also happened to be a great tennis player that the sport became a big part of his life. Several years later, he is still friends with his former partner, but it his love for tennis that has truly blossomed.
Today, D’Aoust is the Building Tennis Communities (BTC) champion for Laval, Quebec, an island city of about 400,000 people located just outside of Montreal. Here he works to grow the sport and provide access to families with lower socio-economic status. Over the past few years, he has brought tennis into schools, started a tournament for the kids, and organized different courses and leagues.
Plans for the future: “I want to start up a league in the secondary school for girls and install leagues for under-12 to raise the number of participants for the tournament, those are my main goals for next year. We also have another project – we want parents to be close to their kids in sports, we are going to have activity days where we teach the parents how to teach tennis to their children. We’ll teach them how to reinforce what their child is doing right and how to formulate something they need to improve. We hope that this means they will take tennis into their families and do it in regular life.”
Proudest accomplishment: “It’s probably the tournament because competition allows people to come together, play together and have fun. Also, I was playing on a court last summer and a little girl, she was about seven and she was playing beside me. And I said, I know you. And she said, yah I think. And she said, you were at my school teaching tennis and but you were wearing a black shirt that day. She remembered. And that makes my day.”
A piece of advice: “Just try. When I accepted the BTC program, I thought ‘Am I the right person to do this?’ I knew a few guys who were better at tennis or a better coach. But I worked for about 38 years in youth services and so I loved this opportunity, and the first thing I had to do was try. The first year wasn’t quite a success but I worked hard and the second year was easier and the third year will be even better. Try and open your social networks and then the door will open. That’s all and readjust when needed, if it’s not a success, think and find solutions, talk to people around and don’t do it all yourself.”
Persistence and hard work pays off
When D’Aoust started his journey as BTC champion, he had to make calls to schools in the area over and over again to get them to commit to bringing tennis into their institutions. Once there, he brought mini-tennis nets and spent a day teaching the kids and teachers how to play.
Now, the schools call him about tennis and thanks to his dedication, many of them have since included the sport in their regular curriculum, teaching tennis for about a month in their physical education classes.
His efforts turned into a tournament for the schools as well, with about 40 kids participating in the first event. There were some challenges – like a 5 degree temperature and 60 km/h gusty winds, but the event was a success.
“The kids there had good behavior and good focus on the sport,” he said. “They kept their smiles and enthusiasm all day long and really impressed all of us. And right away, the schools already invited me for the next year’s tournament!”
“I would say that before a sport, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of living, a way of being and movement. It’s a way of thinking, and it helps you in many ways in your life because when you play tennis, the person you will meet is yourself. It’s an occasion be in front of yourself and a possibility to change and get better, to learn, and to have pleasure with other people.”
Be sure to check out the other ‘Tennis in your Community’ features to find out how other special individuals across Canada are making a difference through sport!