As part of International Women’s Week 2021 from March 8-14, we’ll be highlighting strong female leaders in the Tasmanian tennis community.
We spoke to Janaya Smith from Hobart about how early tennis opportunities have helped to develop her leadership skills and what her hopes for women and girls involved in the sport are.
Janaya is a Hobart-based teacher with strong ties to the Tasmanian community and a storied connection to tennis.
A standout state representative player in her junior years, Janaya claimed four straight Pardey Shield titles from 2010-2013 as the best schoolgirl in the Tasmania, before accepting a US college tennis scholarship to Eastern Washington University, where she studied to become a teacher.
The COVID-19 pandemic required Janaya to adapt to a new way or working, but ultimately enhanced her leadership skills and affirmed her fondness for her chosen profession.
“2020 challenged me to think on my feet and find new ways to engage with my students,” she said.
“It made me appreciate having a full classroom when we were all allowed to return to school, and just how much adore my job.”
In recent months, Janaya has volunteered her time to be a mentor for Tennis Australia’s Future Leaders Program, recently run for the first time from October 2020 to January 2021 for 15-17 year old girls with a passion for tennis in their community.
Her leadership journey in the tennis community started well before last year, however.
Janaya has been a part of the Evonne Goolagong Foundation pathway, which aims to use tennis as a vehicle to increase opportunities for Indigenous Australians, and was part of the first all-Indigenous team to represent Australia in tennis at an international event at the 2018 Oceania Tennis Championships in Samoa.
From this opportunity, Janaya has gone on to assist in the Evonne Goologong Foundation Indigenous Camps held in Tasmania and has led Tasmania’s Team to the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival held annually in Darwin.
Reflecting on her involvement in the sport during International Women’s Week, Janaya hopes that more women and girls continue to strive towards leadership roles, both on and off the court.
“Tennis has led me to so many wonderful people who have inspired and encouraged me to be the best person and tennis player I can,” she said.
“I encourage females to strive to become leaders in their communities because we have so many valuable thoughts, ideas and perspectives that can make an impact on others.”