Photo: Edmonton Junior Tennis Society
Karina Trkulja initially developed a passion for tennis while watching her father, Novak teach her younger sister, Kristina, how to play. Since becoming a mom, she has experienced those same emotions through her daughters Ela and Isidora as they have embarked on learning the game and the important life lessons that go along with it like setting goals, discipline, and being accountable.
Since 2010, Trkulja has passed on her love for the sport to children of all ages through the Edmonton Junior Tennis Society (EJTS) which began as a pilot for Tennis Canada’s Little Aces grassroots junior development program. Today, they run programs out of 8 indoor locations in the winter with 300 kids registered. During the spring and summer months, they offer programs on rented outdoor courts for over 500 kids between the ages of 4-15. They also provide League Play for the 10-15 age group.
The EJTS is especially proud of being able to provide programming for underprivileged children through school programs as well as various Boys & Girls Clubs.
As a recipient of the Game. Set. Equity. Community Tennis Grant presented by National Bank, Trkulja was able to organize the second edition of TENNISfest in June which not only provided kids with the opportunity to play but was also meant to develop more women coaches and attract more girls to participate in the EJTS programs. Local tennis clubs in Edmonton were invited to the event in order to provide information about their different programs and the opportunities available to get involved in the game.
“Working in non-profit organizations and making a positive difference in our community has always been a priority for me,” explained Trkulja. “When I first started with EJTS, I felt a strong sense of urgency to bring it forward from what was already in place and to find opportunities to grow, both in size and scope. Our purpose is to offer programs that can provide life-long pathways to tennis. Our long-term vision is to become the benchmark for the introduction of tennis to children.”
So far, EJTS has delivered on its goal with multiple players now in the high performance pathway while many others continue to play recreationally. Not only are their programs accessible and affordable, but they are succeeding in engaging kids through tennis thanks to a combination of volunteer effort and smart, efficient business practices to ensure financial viability that positions them for sustainability. Not to mention the passion and commitment which has allowed Trkulja to continuously aim higher and inspire each person she impacts along the way.