By Ashley Kate Kesler
Lifelong sports -- something you can pick up at any time and continue to play for the rest of your life -- are hard to come by.
I played tennis off and on throughout elementary school, devoting my time to a variety of sports. But before my junior year in high school, I was invited by a friend to come to open tennis practices. Fast forward through hot summer practices, indoor conditioning, and windy tryouts in late February and I found myself a member of the Varsity tennis team.
I dedicated three hours every afternoon to the team and by the end of my senior year I had been voted captain, gone to regionals with my team, and developed an absolute love for the game of tennis.
My love for tennis was in large part a result of my amazing coaches. During my two years, head coach Robert Dulin held daily pre-practice meetings that coached me on so much more than just tennis. They taught me about personal confidence, the importance of teamwork, how to reach my potential and how to maintain a positive and driven attitude on and off the court. I saw these valuable life lessons implemented during the weekly tennis camps I assisted with at my coach’s newly founded tennis academy.
Coming into my first year at UVA, I was in search of an on-Grounds job. When I saw the posters in the AFC locker rooms about hiring tennis instructors, I immediately sent in the application and went in for an interview. I was asked basic questions about my involvements on Grounds, my past teaching experience, and my tennis experience. The question that really got me was what I could bring to the instruction, besides just tennis knowledge. I immediately referenced my high school coach, and said I wanted to share my love for the sport and the inspiring lessons I learned.
I was soon hired and I joined a passionate team of instructors under the supervision of head coach Paul Shepherd and Assistant Director of Fitness & Wellness, Catharine Riddick.
From playing Simon Says with 5 year-olds to teaching basic groundstrokes, to smiling and laughing with the high school competition class as I fast feed balls for quick footwork drills, to introducing the volley and seeing adult beginners’ faces light up when they succeed, to joining in in doubles play with the advanced students, being an instructor is such a rewarding job.
My instructor position is not even work to me. The mantra is true: if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I have been so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the IM-Rec Sports tennis team and cannot wait to return for my fourth season and continue to encourage a healthy, happy and motivated life through tennis.
I will be teaching Adult Advanced Beginners on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 8 and Under Kids on Wednesdays. Any one of our skilled and enthusiastic instructors would love to see you out on the courts this March to begin or continue a lifelong game.
Ashley Kate Kesler is a second-year student in the College, a member of the IM-Rec Sports marketing team and a tennis instructor.