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Katherine Willette Leadership Scholarship

 


In 2009, Mylan World TeamTennis started a new scholarship program to recognize Katherine Willette (pictured on the right with Billie Jean King), who has helped run the WTT Junior Nationals Tournament in San Diego for over fifteen years. The scholarship annually awards $500 to one male and one female attendee of WTT Junior Nationals.  Winners are chosen based on essays that they submit which demonstrate a variety of lessons learned, friendships made, and the impact of the coed team format on the individual player and his or her team. 

Two participants from the 2016 World TeamTennis Junior Nationals Tournament were awarded the Kathy Willette Leadership Scholarship after writing about a life-changing experience from taking part in the tournament. Casey Cummings and Jonah Wafala have been granted a scholarship award of $500 for their achievements.

 
 
 

 
 
2016 Katherine Willette Leadership Scholarship Essay Winners
Casey Cummings and Jonah Wafala


This summer, I had the honor to participate in the World Team Tennis Junior Nationals along side the most supportive team I could’ve asked for. Before attending WTT, I was quite nervous about how our team would get along. I wasn’t familiar with most of the members of our team, they were all a little older than me. By our first practice, I knew our team was going to be inseparable. We were all able to work together, have fun, and stay humble. With each passing day, our team grew closer. Today, months later, I still talk to my team on a regular basis. World Team Tennis was an opportunity to create new friendships and new memories that will last a lot longer then a win on the tennis court.

The co-ed team format of this tournament simultaneously brought fun and competition to the courts. As time progressed, it was soon apparent that our mixed doubles would often determine the outcome of the match. Farther in the draw, both our semi-finals and finals match ended in an overall tie, allowing us to play a mixed doubles tiebreaker to determine the winners of the match. Both tiebreakers were the most exciting tennis I’ve ever played. The crowed was involved, the team was involved, and everyone on the court was playing high quality tennis. Through my years of playing competitive tennis, I’d never played a serious mixed doubles match, but that changed at WTT. Usually, girls tennis is separated from boys, we have separate high school teams, separate college teams, and even sometimes play our tournaments at different sites. In the world outside of tennis, we need to learn how to work with both genders and to get along with everyone, so I think the incorporation of co-ed teams had a lot of value.

During the 3 days of wins, losses, laughs, and competition, I learnt what it truly means to be a team member: having the confidence to be a leader but the humility to be a supporter. Over the course of the event, every member of our team played both roles: leader and supporter.

Weather it was being a leader on-court when the team was down, making sure that everyone got the best warm up, or pumping up the rest of the team from the bench, each player recognized when it was their time to be a leader. The same goes for being a supporter. All of our team was happy to do what was best for the team: sitting out a match, filling up a teammates water jug while they were playing, or giving up their seat to whoever just finished their match. The role of the supporter is just as important as the role of the leader, it is a role for everyone.

Overall, World Team Tennis was a event full of lessons learned, friendships formed, and memories made. WTT was more than just a tournament, it was an all-around experience and I hope to attend again next year.

-Casey Cummings 


When The longer I play tennis, the more I realize how fortunate I am to be part of the fantastic tennis community. I just attended the World Team Tennis Junior Nationals in San Diego with a team from the PNW. From the minute we assembled at the airport to the time we said our goodbyes it was a fun, fast paced and competitive experience.

The memories and lessons that I take away with me from WTT are numerous and most especially the new friendships I made and the camaraderie of all the players. This week rewarded me with so many wonderful first time experiences including flying to San Diego and being part of an awesome junior team. It was the largest competitive event I have participated in and our team always encouraged each other to play their hearts out. I think I was the one cheering the loudest! Learning a new scoring format beyond regular match play, gave all of us the opportunity to play more games and stay on our toes. It was really fun because the entire team was involved all the time. We made decisions as a team and deferred to our coaches for guidance.

WTT was very well organized and welcoming, matches and play were constantly on the move with no delays and delicious lunches showed up when we were all starving. Oh yes and did I mention my framed photo of my team with James Blake which I will save to show my kids! This was my first time being close to one of the best players in the world! A nice ordinary guy who had a conversation with me. I love tennis!

Players were invited to speak at one of the lunches and we learned how these individuals began their tennis adventures. Our coaches were great and I learned a lot from their assistance on and off the courts and so nice of them to include side trips after matches. Hello In and Out Burgers! A walk along the Coronado and seeing the amazing Coronado hotel is a must while in San Diego. Hanging out with all the other players and sharing experiences until late at night was very entertaining and we laughed a lot.

If I had the opportunity to play this event again, I wouldn't hesitate. We didn't win any trophies, but I came away feeling like a champion. Thank you Billie Jean, Kathy Willette and WTT for showing me the absolute meaning of team spirit.


-Jonah Wafala 

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