Fernie Tennis honoured with national award

Fernie Tennis Coaching (FTC) will receive the 2014 Excellence Award from Tennis Canada for their Canadian contributions to the sport.

Fernie Tennis Coaching (FTC) will receive the 2014 Excellence Award from Tennis Canada for their Canadian contributions to the sport.

“They decided out of all the communities across Canada that in terms of funding and the equipment and support we’ve given that we’ve reached out to one of the highest numbers of children in the country,” said FTC head coach Charlotte Willis.

She added, “I always assumed I was a small fish and I never anticipated it being this big. I feel so honoured. I didn’t realize how big the award was until I really looked into it.”

Since opening FTC in 2011, Willis and her assistant coaches have been able to introduce the sport to 1,700 kids a year from schools across the Elk Valley.

“[When] we started Fernie Tennis Coaching we wanted to focus on schools as we figured that was the best way to get the most exposure with young children,” explained Willis. “Most of our funding went towards getting school-aged children to enjoy and at least experience tennis, even if they didn’t ultimately want to continue. It’s that vital stage where if they are introduced to the basics, they can pick it back up again in their 20s or 30s if they’d like.”

Willis will attend the Building Tennis Communities (BTC) national conference this November in Toronto to officially receive the award. BTC has named Willis as a community champion in Fernie for her contributions.

The conference brings together community leaders across Canada who have been fostering the sport in their town.

Having attended the conference previously, Willis said, “You get a real chance to see where you’re at compared to other communities and it’s also a great brainstorming opportunity to see how other communities have spent their funding and developed the sport.”

Willis said that her focus in Fernie has always been on building the “right reputation” for the sport and advocating that once you purchase the equipment, tennis can be an enjoyable — and affordable — family sport to partake in.

“Admittedly, coaching can be expensive if you take private lessons, but as a family sport for family fun, we have free public courts. Once you have the equipment, which can be purchased cheaply, you can play as much as you like,” said Willis.

Looking into the future, Willis hopes that the award will spark the interest needed to develop tennis even further in Fernie, including expansions like an indoor tennis centre or a tennis academy.

“Right now, Fernie is a Mecca for mountain biking and skiing and we’re always taking those sports to the next level, so it would be nice to see tennis catch up,” she said. “I would love to see Fernie be placed on the tennis map and eventually have some really excellent international players come out of here. There are lots of kids I’m teaching at the moment that have the enthusiasm and the potential to go beyond. With BTC, it gets the masses playing tennis and then you only need one child who has unbelievable drive and enthusiasm to take it further. But only by getting the masses playing can you get to that one child. We’re very lucky in Fernie to have talented tennis resources to reach more kids in the future.”

For more information on FTC and to find out what programs they provide for what ages, visit www.tennisfernie.com or call Willis at 250-946-6007.