No limits: Lessons from fulfilling careers in tennis
From grassroots to Grand Slams, volunteer to executive level, the growing number of women occupying off-court roles in tennis set an important benchmark in the sport.
Healthy, challenging, social and offering many opportunities for development, there are few pursuits that provide a more positive pathway for girls and young women as tennis.
And while many might consider the benefits in the context of a playing career, it resonates equally for the many women who are shaping the sport in a range of professions off the court.
From grassroots to Grand Slams, volunteers to executives, women are strongly represented in a range of important positions. And it’s perhaps unsurprising that as many vigorously pursue equality and further opportunity, they are most inspired by other women in the sport.
Jaslyn Hewitt-Shehadie, Tennis NSW’s Head of Tennis Operations and Pathways, believes accessible role models are critical to overall progress in the sport.
“Having females in leadership and coaching positions is of vital importance. For young girls to see other women in those positions, (this) provides them a visible role model,” she says.
Hewitt-Shehadie has set her own role model standard, progressing from a professional playing career to a high-performance coaching and operational one.
“My love for tennis has seen me stay in tennis from a junior at my local club at Seaside in Adelaide, to representing Australia and meeting royalty on the junior circuit before forgoing the dream of winning a Grand Slam after breaking my hand,” she explains.
The Sydneysider looks back on that time as critical to her overall professional development.
“Tennis is an amazing sport to play. It teaches players of all levels and standards of resilience, etiquette, and teamwork. If you have the opportunity to travel as a player, the life lessons learnt on tour are irreplaceable,” she says.
“Travelling the world, learning new cultures and languages, time management, organisation, and the budgeting skills required assist in life after tennis as you transition into the workforce.”
Melanie Omizzolo spent eight years as a physiotherapist on the WTA Tour, before joining Tennis Australia as National Physiotherapy Manager and progressing to her current role as Health and Wellness Manager.
The combined experiences have illuminated the wide-ranging opportunities that can be explored through the game, both person ally and professionally.
“Tennis subconsciously develops you into a more well-rounded and determined person,” Omizzolo emphasises.
“It builds connections with people – both on and off the court – and you can combine the fun side of ‘play’ with the gritty side of competition to help you reach the best version of yourself.”
As the sport benefits from the women applying those skills in a range of careers, there are notable rewards for those occupying the roles. This includes the opportunity to build valuable personal and community networks.
Omizzolo is similarly motivated by the values represented in tennis.
“I love the culture around sport and people striving for excellence,” she relates. “The fact we can do this in a sport that equally supports, promotes and celebrates the achievements of men and women is very significant to me.
“We can work with kids who are being introduced to the sport for the first time, people with disabilities who are pushing themselves to excel, older adults who thrive with the social aspect of the sport, and professional players. What’s not to love?”
The full version of this article appears in the June-July edition of Australian Tennis Magazine.
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