Photo: Philpott Children’s Tennis

For the past three decades, Philpott Children’s Tennis has been promoting the health, physical, and moral well-being among children and youth in priority needs neighbourhoods by providing skill development programs.

The program, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022, started with one site and now hosts tennis activities at 18 different locations in the Toronto area for more than 4,000 participants every summer. Earlier this year it was announced that a bubble would be built over the two newly resurfaced San Romanoway tennis courts in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood which will give Philpott its first indoor facility and make their initiatives available year-round.


The covered courts are just one of the many reasons why Philpott Children’s Tennis will continue to flourish. Their girls’ recruitment program, led by Executive Director Richard Crowell and Co-Facilitators Stephanie Chen and Kimberly Pallarca, is giving girls from underserved and racialized communities the opportunity to become certified instructors. In addition to learning how to play tennis, they go through the Youth Leadership Pathway which teaches the leadership skills needed to take all the transferrable skills from tennis and coaching into whatever career path they choose. In addition to the life skills, the pathway is also meant to connect participants to their community, create paid jobs, as well as encourage diversity and gender equality in coaching development. 

“Being a great coach is not about hitting tennis balls, it’s about inspiring the future of our sport,” explained Crowell. “We are confident that the young women that we are training to become certified coaches will do just that. Our goal is to ensure that every young girl that picks up a racquet in our program will have a strong female coach who inspires them to keep coming back for more.”


In 2018, only 7% of the Philpott coaching team was female. Today, over 50% of the group are women thanks to the certification of 30 female coaches.

Being one of the inaugural recipients of the Game. Set. Equity. Community Tennis Grant presented by National Bank means that they can pay the expenses associated with the girls’ recruitment program which includes providing equipment, tennis attire, and paying their salaries. Before the start of the summer program, the new female recruits work with Chen and Pallarca, who is a Philipott graduate herself, to learn the game through regular Zoom meetings and weekly on-court sessions which is their first time picking up a racquet. When the summer season begins, they become paid assistants to the certified instructors who run the lessons so they can continue to watch and learn. The girls then go into the leadership pathway in September and are eligible to become certified in March if they meet the criteria. 

Photo: Philpott Children’s Tennis

To supplement their on-court efforts, the recruits have had the chance to attend Tennis Canada’s Unmatched conference each of the last two years to hear keynote speakers Billie Jean King and Maria Sharapova. Pallarca also ran an all-female leadership panel during the Tevlin Challenger in 2022 which the girls were present for. They also got a tour of Tennis Canada’s Toronto office, learned about the different positions available there, and watched the Tevlin matches.

“You can’t have motivation without opportunity,” said Pallarca. “We have the female players, nationally and internationally, now we need more women coaches to inspire the next generation.”

Opportunity and inspiration are exactly what Philpott Children’s Tennis is trying to provide as they look to expand the reach of the girls’ recruitment program in Toronto-area schools. The hope is that eventually the program won’t be needed because enough female coaches will be working to serve as mentors to help girls stay involved in tennis. They’ve certainly made great strides towards achieving that goal and the girls they continue to recruit just have to look to Crowell, Chen, Pallarca, and their remarkable stories, as sources of inspiration.