Denise is not new to the Tennis BC board; in fact, she has been on the board for seven years! She began her time with Tennis BC as treasurer, then Vice President, and took on her new role of President in July this year.
Denise has been a tennis fan all her life. She grew up in the UK, finding a love for tennis through watching Wimbledon on the telly, an event that she looked forward to every summer. Her earliest memories of playing the game took place on the street with her sister as they played an English version of Canadian road hockey! They had racquets and a ball and an imaginary net. Just like Canadian kids playing road hockey, they moved to the side to let the cars pass before resuming their game! Denise wanted to play more, but by the time she got the opportunity to take some formal training, she had to hear the news that she was “too old” at 11 years-of-age to become a pro, but somehow, that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm and that this experience of not knowing how to get started is something that she wanted to change for others.
Once her family emigrated to Canada in the early 90s, Denise attended a high school with only one court that collected leaves in the fall. She had only her sister to play with on weekends and found the pathway to junior development in her new country was just as difficult to figure out as it had been in the UK. As an adult, Denise still struggled to find a way into the local tennis community where she lived. She joined an indoor club but found it hard to make connections. She later joined a seasonal club that leaned more towards social events, and it was through the players she met here that she began to make those important connections and found the courage to take her game to the next step. As a self-taught player, it felt like a big jump, but jump she did, and eventually, she joined her first league team, starting in Div 5. From there, she worked her way up to Div 3, Div 2, and finally Div 1, playing provincials with Burnaby Tennis Club this August!
All of these experiences as a player form Denise’s vision as a board member. She was a key voice in getting the Richmond Hub off the ground. (The Richmond Hub provides more than an indoor facility; it provides a place for junior development too). By trade Denise is a CPA with her own consulting firm which focuses on business improvement through process efficiencies & IT systems, and she applied her expertise to helping Tennis BC staff getting systems in place for remote work when the pandemic hit and making it easier for non-financial people to understand the organization’s financials.
Denise brings many other talents to her new role, including working as an English-as-a-second-language teacher, advocating for women in finance and business, being nominated for the RBC Woman of Influence award, and co-authoring in a book called Pursuit365—she does it all!
As President of the Board, Denise hopes to continue to build on the great work of past presidents and boards to help others who love the sport but, like her, didn’t know how to get into it. She notes that it is an interesting time in tennis— “the world is watching, and there’s so much opportunity to engage casual players or those who are interested in taking up the sport. Juniors are a focus because they lay the foundation for the future of the sport”, but she also believes that “it’s important to ensure that adults can return to the sport later in life” —anyone who was an avid player as a junior, or mums and dads who now have the time to play, or retirees who want to share time with their grandkids— “Everyone should be welcome,” she says.
Moving the game forward means taking into account a few more things that are common concerns. “Safety and sustainability are ‘buzzy’ words these days,” Denise notes, “but not just from an environmental perspective. We need to make it easier for people who want to play and make it easier for people who want to work in the field, both on and off the court, to stay in the industry.” Denise also recognizes that great strides are being made in making tennis safer for players and coaches with initiatives like SafeSport which bring a new level of professionalism to a sport that has always been ahead of the curve. Sustainability from an environmental perspective is the issue of our time, and Tennis BC is setting the standard, from finding ways to reuse tennis balls to supporting sports equipment to recycling programs such as Project Rebounce.
Most importantly, Denise says that “We need to make tennis FUN!!!! If it’s fun, players will want to play for life.” She points to some of the new initiatives through Tennis BC and Tennis Canada that promote fun at the junior levels, and adds that, “We will always have tournaments and competition, but what about the everyday play for adults and kids who just want to play for fun, fitness, and social connections? We need to find more ways to just play!”
Denise’s passion for tennis runs deep; she is a competitor (she recently played at the National Bank Stanley Park Open in the Ladies’ Doubles), an advocate (as described above!), and a fan (she tries to see the pros in action at least once a year). Her professional experience speaks to her capabilities, and her love of the game is something she wants to share with as many people as possible. She sees the value in all aspects of tennis, from the professional level down to the public courts players and wants to build the game from the grass roots up in a way that benefits everyone who plays now and into the future.
Written by Joanne Hill (Tennis BC)