No limits: “There’s so many great role models in tennis” says Gescheit
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.
Danielle Gescheit, whose career spans multiple roles and years in tennis, echoes that sentiment.
Currently the Head of Players with Disability (PwD) & Program Optimisation at Tennis Australia, Gescheit first connected with the national body while completing undergraduate studies in sports science at Deakin University.
She persisted with networking opportunities to gain a placement at Tennis Australia, which initially led to project-based roles in athlete development.
“That took me on a bit of a trajectory,” says Gescheit, who subsequently completed an honours degree and a PHD with support from the organisation.
“I then got the opportunity to step into the role of Head of Professional Operations and looking after all our senior pro players,” Gescheit continues. “And then last year stepped into a caretaking role heading up Players with a Disability. I realised I loved it, so when the opportunity to step into the role more formally came up, I was excited to take it.”
Another ongoing role, as Manager of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team, has provided Gescheit with a unique appreciation of women in the sport.
“It shows how there’s so many great role models in tennis,” she enthuses. “The Billie Jean King Cup team is, I think, a primary example of what strong women can do together and being bigger than themselves individually.”
Keen to acknowledge that the broader support group includes several men, Gescheit enthusiastically points out that the team has also taught her the value of a collective force.
“Being involved in this space has really opened my eyes and taught me so much about what strong women can do together in a supportive environment,” she says.
While women bring many unique skills to tennis – with “empathy and care” most consistently acknowledged – determination is often most valuable of all.
It’s a quality that rates highly as Gescheit considers the advice she’d provide to other women targeting a career in tennis.
“The biggest thing for me is that I’ve never seen my gender as a limiting factor and nor should anyone,” she advises. “I think it’s just saying ‘well, I’m the person with these skills and I’m most suitable for this position’ and not to say their gender is limiting to anything they would dream or aspire to do.”
As a growing number of women adopt that approach to pursuing the many roles in tennis, there is an unquestionable sense that the game is in good hands.
Andrea Buckeridge, Tennis Australia’s Head of Women and Girls, is encouraged by the positive cycle of success.
“Increased representation of women in tennis provides young girls and women of all ages with role models to look up to and be inspired by,” she emphasises.
“The achievements and success stories of players, coaches, officials and administrators encourage more women to pursue the sport, breaking barriers and empowering future generations.”
The full version of this article appears in the June-July edition of Australian Tennis Magazine.
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