Our Tennis Maven of the Month features focus on an individual making a difference in Canadian tennis! For the third edition of Tennis Maven of the Month, we were delighted to chat with Charlotte Willis, a Building Tennis Communities (BTC) community champion in the city of Fernie, British Columbia. Charlotte arrived in B.C. from the United Kingdom in 2010 to set up a family-run B&B business. She soon discovered that Fernie did not have any tennis programs, so she took the lead on developing tennis in the community. She has since been able to introduce the sport to over 1,500 kids from schools within the Elk Valley area!
Here is our Q&A with Charlotte, who was also named the Tennis Canada BTC Community Partner of the Year for 2014:
My role is to build tennis participation in Fernie and the surrounding cities reaching as far as Medicine Hat, Kimberley and soon Elkford and Sparwood.
I teach families about the psychological, physical and social benefits of organized sports for kids. I do presentations to local community groups and teach the local pre-schools including all the elementary schools, reaching around 700 kids annually.
I now run a full tennis program from spring through fall for ages two and up, including after-school courses and summer tennis camps. I organize two annual junior tournaments, one of which is the sanctioned Rogers Rookie Tour tournament. I also run adult courses in the spring and fall. I have trained two very valuable tennis assistants who are now part-time employees.
We celebrated our last year of being community champions by getting our park courts resurfaced thanks to the City of Fernie. I would like to say thank you for the huge support from Tennis BC and the Fernie Tennis Community Association for making that possible.
I love watching the kids develop as players and the joy they get from healthy competition. I enjoy teaching a sport that a child can learn and enjoy with their friends and family. I am currently very excited at seeing my own 2½ year-old son developing an interest in playing. He impresses me every day with his enthusiasm to get involved no matter what the age group.
Players like Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard individually are raising the worldwide profile of Canadian tennis and there is no knowing where in Canada the next potential star will come from. The Davis Cup team is a real inspiration for the kids to follow due to their success. Now that we have a tennis structure in Fernie, it is essential that we develop it to ensure participation grows and progresses. We are constantly changing our program to ensure we meet the needs of developing juniors. This year we have introduced a junior match play league. At the other end of the age spectrum, I am introducing a group for 2-3 years-olds, where I teach the parents how to help with their kids’ development. We are getting so many kids involved in the sport, they are all keen to develop as a group.
I love the social and fitness side of the sport, the amazing sense of achievement when you hit the ball so perfectly that it feels effortless. I fully respect those pros and champions who take it to the next level, providing us with role models. I love the endless learning, even after 20 years of playing I would love to develop more. It’s an awesome physical challenge.
You don’t have to be a tennis star; everyone can enjoy their own element of the sport, get a racquet and some balls, go down to the courts with your family and friends and have a hit in the sun with a picnic!
My favourite moment is being honoured with handing the winning trophy to our annual junior champion in our local closed tournament. Seeing the improvements of the children here in Fernie makes doing my job worthwhile.
Charlotte is such a great supporter of Canadian tennis and we love what she has done introducing so many children to tennis in her community! More Tennis Maven of the Month profiles to come.