Children: Jackson, 19; Brooks; Lillian, 13
What makes tennis a special part of your life?
Tennis has been my sport my entire life. I started playing when I was in elementary school and continued to play in high school. Although I never dreamed of playing in college, I attended Gustavus Adolphus and made the team as a freshman. It was a truly exciting year, and we placed fourth in the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, I incorporated the “three crowns” – effort, attitude and sportsmanship – as my personal philosophy from that year on. The other over-the-top experience at Gustavus was meeting my husband, Erik Allen.
After transferring schools to St Cloud State University, I became the first player there to advance to the NCAA Division ll tournament. My tennis family at St. Cloud State taught me how to enjoy the sport and still have time for school and other activities.
Upon graduation, I had the opportunity to coach in Europe. I traveled with top-ranked juniors through four different countries and still keep in touch with a few of them. Eventually, I traveled and coached adult groups, too.
Tennis allowed me to play college tennis, meet my husband and travel the world. The confidence these experiences gave me changed my life. I can only hope my kids have half these experiences.
How long have your kids been playing tennis? How did they start to play?
After getting married in 1994, I continued to teach tennis and made lifelong friends. I cannot imagine my life without them. In 1998, I received a late Christmas present – our son, Jackson Leigh Allen, was born on Dec. 26. My life was changed forever.
I wanted to continue teaching my clients. Often times, the time I was allotted for daycare at the club would expire. The “moms” from the club would take over and watch Jackson so I could teach their daughters. My career continued as Jackson grew. He never wanted to go in the nursery, but I would bribe him. The “carrot” was playing tennis! We also gave him hand-me-down tennis shorts and shirts from his idol, Wyatt McCoy, if he cooperated. By the way, Wyatt now teaches Jackson’s younger sister the skills of the game!
Jackson’s brother, Brooks Michael, entered the world in 2000. We moved to Shakopee. I worked at a new club, and Jackson played tennis. He loved the game. With all the blessings this sport had already provided me, I couldn’t have been happier. We formed a junior team through the USTA and became friends with many of the top kids in our section. Those solid friendships continued through Zonal experiences. Although the boys ended up at different clubs, many of them have stayed in contact with one another. Currently, four or five of those athletes are now playing college tennis.
Why do you think it’s important for your kids to play tennis?
Although our middle son, Brooks, played tennis with Jackson on their high school team, he loves basketball as much as his dad does. He has gone on to excel in that sport and has transferred the life lessons he’s learned from tennis. As a result, Brooks understands delayed gratification, the value of resilience, the importance of team building and the good results of hard work. Although I miss him on the tennis courts, I’m doubly proud of him on the hardwood.
Lillian Kathleen is delightful. She’s our 13-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at an early age. Although she started her sports career a little late, she’s quickly making up the time. JIA may have sidelined her in the beginning, but it’s also given her an unmatched resolve. Lily learned the Gustavus “three crowns” before she could walk. I can’t wait to see what see does with the game of tennis and, more importantly, what she will do with the game of life as a result of the tennis lessons learned.
What is your most memorable tennis moment?
When the boys’ varsity head tennis position opened up at our local high school, I decided to take the job and asked two of my closest tennis people – Jack Roach and Jenny Arnfelt – to join me. These past few years have provided many of my most memorable tennis experiences.
The three of us worked hard together for three years, and I must admit that coaching your own child is not easy. However, in Jackson’s junior year, he won the individual state championship. I will never forget walking out to coach him. I did not need to say much; he was definitely in the zone that day. Upon clinching the match, Jack and Jenny motioned for me to walk onto the court first. Sharing that hug with Jackson meant more than anyone can know. It was Jackson’s “match of a lifetime” and my “memory of a lifetime.” You can understand why I am so grateful to the game of tennis!
Tennis has provided our family with more than we could ever dream of. I would love to rank these memories but find it impossible. They all mean so much to me. The people we’ve come to love along the journey, the places we’ve traveled together, the support our family provides us and the values we have learned are all first on the same list!
Are you involved in other activities in your community?
Fortunately for me, I’m able to give back to this game. We currently have a tennis association in Shakopee with more than 250 juniors participating. All summer, every summer, I’m on the court and love it. If I can give anyone even a glimpse of the possibilities this game has to offer, I am a happy teacher!