|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 $300 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 2014 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. Cello Lockwood of Seattle (OC Lightening) and Cole Stofflet of Scottsdale, Ariz. (Southwest Coyotes) have been granted a scholarship award of $300 for their achievements.
2014 Katherine Willette Leadership Scholarship Essay Winners
Cello Lockwood of Seattle (OC Lightening) and Cole Stofflet of Scottsdale, Ariz. (Southwest Coyotes)
Opportunities arise in all situations and it is up to us to recognize and make the most of them. At the World TeamTennis Junior Nationals, I made a breakthrough in realizing the value of taking advantage of opportunities in all aspects of tennis: the game itself, the friendships that can be made on and off the court, and the lessons one can learn in practice and competition.
On the court opportunities arise all the time whether it’s seeing a specific shot you want to go for, or getting the chance to play against someone for the first time. I was in the middle of a set when I glanced to the side of the court and saw Billie Jean King watching. I got so nervous! As I walked up to serve I took a deep breath and remembered her saying just that afternoon that “pressure is a privilege”. For the first time I felt grateful to be in a situation where I had the pressure of someone like Billie watching me. Billie invites us to ‘go for it’ and treasure big moments. I like to think about the game as very creative because every time the ball is on my side of the net I am in full control of what happens next. I had never thought of each point as an opportunity before but at WTT I felt encouraged to open my eyes and try new things.
Tennis offers a chance to connect with people you practice with, opponents, and others who love the game. WTT did a wonderful job of encouraging competitors to talk to one another. At the end of the trip I not only felt supported by my teammates, but also by other teams who I had gotten to know throughout the week. There were many chances for participants to get to know other people from around the country who would otherwise not have connected. There were also unexpected opportunities to reach out. We met one player who didn’t have a team, so we invited him to play with our SoCal team. A stranger became a valued teammate overnight and what seemed a potential awkward situation resolved quickly and we became a stronger and happier team.
Going into WTT I had my doubts about being on a team with people I had never met before and a coed team nonetheless. I played soccer for a long time and love being on a team but I didn’t think that this experience would be possible in tennis. I found my assumption to be completely misinformed. We got to come together as a unit and representing a region made the tournament feel like we playing for more than just ourselves. Also, getting to play in the same format as the pros gave us a chance to have a tennis fantasy! The emphasis on mixed doubles was important to me because in most junior tournaments it doesn’t seem to count for much. I was surprised that throughout the competition I felt equal to the boys because my wins were just as important as theirs. What I came to realize is that, yes, pressure certainly is a privilege, but there is a little less pressure when you have a team behind you out there!
Along with being a place to learn about and connect with other people, tennis provides a platform to learn life lessons. At WTT Billie did an incredible job of waking us up to how we can learn from our experiences on the court. I think the most important and influential thing we can learn from tennis is the value of a good attitude. The attitude someone assumes on the court often translates into other parts of his/her life. As we continue to grow in the game of tennis we learn to pursue integrity, remain positive, and have a strong work ethic. Making the most of all opportunities and valuing these traits help us to succeed both on and off the court.
I would like to thank everybody who made this wonderful team tournament possible. Without them, I would not have been able to participate in this truly life changing event. Thank you to Barnes Tennis Center, Billie Jean King, Delaine Mast, Kathy Willette, Tony Perez, Kerry Blum, Coaches Eric Mitchell, and Nicole Fintell, and the many other people who I did not name. Also, thank you to the past players who came on Wednesday during lunch to speak to all participants about their experiences; this really affected me in a positive way.
When I first met part of our team in the Phoenix airport, I knew the two boys pretty well (David and Hussein), however; I had never met Chloe, Yolena, or Lindsay. That changed by the time we said our goodbyes on Thursday afternoon. When we landed in San Diego, most of our team climbed into the van with Eric Mitchell at the wheel. Lindsay and Coach Nicole were stuck in El Paso due to a problem with the aircraft. We all went to practice and shortly thereafter were joined by Lindsay and Coach Nicole. The first time we drove back to the hotel, the van was very quiet and Coaches Nicole and Eric were making small talk so the ride wasn't too awkward. :) That changed very much come Tuesday!
After dinner that night at Barnes Tennis Center, the Southwest team went to the pool. There were a few other teams there as well, and five minutes into talking with them, we all felt we were longtime friends. The next day we all met for breakfast and started to become a little more talkative. At the matches that day, everyone was cheering for each other as loud as they could, and yet both teams were great friends. The rule with playing let cords definitely got a few laughs from both teams. :) On a personal note, there were a few sets that I don’t know if I would have won, but I did, thanks to my amazing team members and coaches cheering me on the entire way.
Whether we won or lost a match, the entire team was always happy and filled with team spirit. The van rides got much louder and filled with much more laughter by the end of the tournament. Thanks to this wonderful team event hosted by Billie Jean King, I made many new friendships that I hope will last a lifetime and even strengthened my existing friendships.
The highlight of the tournament was on Wednesday night after we got back from dinner around 9:30 P.M. We were walking into the hotel and saw Billie Jean standing in the entrance to the hotel talking with someone. It turns out she was Billie Jean’s partner when they won Wimbledon together at age 19. Billie Jean talked to us about some of the things she experienced while playing junior tennis, and about the highs and lows she had throughout her career. She talked to us until 11:00 at night! She let us ask many questions, and it was truly one of the most memorable hour 1 1/2 hours of my life. She really is an amazing woman and LOVES the game of tennis.