Local organization, the Fernie Tennis Coaching (FTC) is the brainchild of Charlotte Willis, a fully qualified club pro 1 coach. While 2011 was the first year for Fernie Tennis Coaching, Willis has been teaching tennis for more than 20 years.
“My whole family plays tennis, so I started very young, it was very much a part of my family life growing up. My mom and I played ladies doubles together for many years and some of my closest friends I found through playing on various tennis teams,” said Willis to The Free Press. “My brother is also a tennis coach. I was very lucky I got to train and work with him for over five years, which was a great experience. I have been running youth tennis camps back in England since 2005.”
The Fernie camps are offered over eight weeks in the summer, with half day camps for three to five year-olds and four day programs for six to 14 year-olds. This was the first year FTC offered a girl’s only camp and a performance camp. The equipment used in the camps further reduces some of the barriers to enter the sport. The FTC can provide equipment for participants and offers a buyback program to ensure each player has the right sized racket.
“We use progressive equipment which enables the younger kids to progress in the game quickly. Red balls for example are larger and bounce 75 per cent slower than a standard yellow ball. We use 19 to 25 inch rackets, which are lightweight and have very small grip sizes,” she said. “So even the little three years-olds can have rallies, including my own son, who is now able to rally over the net with me when he is not trying to hit it over my head.”
Each youth that signs up pays either a member or guest fee. All proceeds go to the non-profit Fernie Tennis Community Association.
“80 per cent of these funds goes straight back into school tennis programming, equipment for schools and free tennis events for kids,” said Willis. “I would say presently that 50 per cent of the attendance is local and sometimes attend multiple weeks of tennis camps each summer, 50 per cent are from out of town and visiting, many of which come back every year. [It’s] a great opportunity to see kids develop skills and strong friendships.”
The camps have created more than just recreational players, according to Willis.
“With all this enthusiasm we have had to add more tournaments and I have an ever-growing group of performance players who are looking for tournaments outside of Fernie, which as a small town coach is a very proud moment for me.”
For more on the camps check out Tennisfernie.com.