The EB Tennis Academy has been operating for the better part of 30 years with the longstanding objective of further advancing the development of tennis at the regional level in southwestern Quebec. In the process, it has made the sport more accessible and created a growing community that has become more like a family.
The academy, which is run by Étienne Bergeron and his wife Kirsten Björn, was one of the deserving recipients of the Game. Set. Equity. Community Tennis Grant presented by National Bank. In conjunction with the academy, Björn also operates Modwellness which offers mental training sessions for the players and coaches. In the summer, they operate out of five different outdoor clubs and at the Centre Multisports in Vaudreuil, Quebec in the winter. The goal is for the grant to benefit as many people as possible already in the various programs and attract new candidates as well. Already they are working with people of all ages, from four-year-olds who are picking up a racquet for the first time to a 95-year-old recreational player who is an inspiration to everyone he crosses paths with. The academy focuses on four key pillars: developing female coaches, recreational players, the competitive stream, and wheelchair tennis.
Björn wants to get more teenage girls interested in coaching and eventually to pursue their certification while not only improving their technique but also helping them develop as people. They’ve also been using the funds from the grant to support their athletes at events, junior players, and growing the female competitive program where they cover the mental, tactical, physical, and equipment aspects of the game.
Natalia Lanucha, one of the members of the EB Tennis Academy wheelchair tennis team, was recently selected to join Tennis Canada’s program. Bergeron and Björn continue to assist in her development thanks to the grant, including mental training sessions as well as private on-court training blocks.
Bergeron is recognized by Tennis Canada and the International Coaching Institute as a High Performance Coach and Club Professional. He also travels with junior provincial teams to national and international tournaments. As for Björn, who comes from a family of athletes in sailing and skiing, she found her niche in mental training with kids.
“Early on, I wasn’t so focused on just the benefits of high performance, but also the benefits of becoming your best self,” Björn explained. “To give you context, I have had people ask me if my kid’s not going to be a pro, is there any point? I respond with: are they loving it? If yes, there are so many benefits to participating in sports and becoming a professional is only a small piece of that. Our greatest joy is when someone is proud of themselves, no matter what that accomplishment is and it’s not a cookie-cutter thing. It’s what’s best for each individual person.”
One of the academy’s alumni is none other than two-time Grand Slam finalist, Leylah Annie Fernandez. She was in a weekend program at her elementary school along with Bergeron and Björn’s son. Over time, they got to know her whole family, including her father Jorge who, before becoming involved in his daughter’s tennis career, was a soccer player and coach. Bergeron would coach Fernandez on a court at a park nearby by their house while Jorge would teach soccer to their son. She would ultimately be part of the academy for several years and continues to maintain her relationship with them to this day.
Björn is hoping that the grant will allow more young girls to follow in Fernandez’s footsteps in the future by creating more opportunities to get them involved in the sport.
“We are so grateful to have this opportunity because for everyone we’ve been able to touch it’s been good for them, and they’ve enjoyed the new exposure to tennis,” she said.