USPTA Elite Professional Lisa Wilcott didn’t always want to become a tennis coach. In fact, for a time, she didn’t even want to play tennis.
An exceptional athletic talent out of high school, Wilcott instead chose to play basketball, first at Indiana University and then the University of Florida. She could have played tennis and basketball in college, she said, “but it would’ve been way too much at the Division 1 level.”
“I think I picked basketball because at that time I liked the team aspect more,” said Wilcott, who has been the Tennis Director at York Golf and Tennis Club in York, Maine, for the past 27 years.
She graduated with a degree in Athletic Administration and took a job doing office work at a tennis club in Connecticut. But pretty soon, she realized she didn’t like being cooped up inside. So she turned to coaching.
Wilcott has always been passionate about sports. She’s also always loved travelling. That’s part of the reason she decided to go from New England to Indiana and then Florida for college. It’s also something she’s found a way to incorporate into her career as a tennis coach.
Every winter for the last 15 or so years, Wilcott heads down to Barbados for a couple weeks, partly to escape the Maine cold, and partly to teach tennis to children. She’s also coached in Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
“I met the pro who runs and teaches [in Barbados] and I asked her if I could come and help. I donate some racquets and balls and whatever else she needs,” Wilcott said. “I help them just a couple days a week but it’s the same kids. They look forward to seeing me and I really look forward to seeing them every year.”
The tennis lessons are part of the kids’ school program. They arrive in single file, but when they get on the courts, they “let loose.”
“It has grown,” she said. “They don’t really have the facilities, but their enthusiasm is outstanding. They definitely improve and they’re very, very happy kids. They love chasing a tennis ball and hitting it.
“I teach adults at my resort. I love teaching them, too, but I love the times when I go and I work with the little kids.”
Part of that comes from the fact that these kids don’t have a lot of opportunities to play tennis. Extending those opportunities is another of Wilcott’s passions, and it shows in her club’s programming.
York Golf and Tennis Club has a thriving junior program and hosts a slew of events promoting diversity and inclusion. For the past three years, the club junior staff has marched in the Portland, Maine, LGBTQ Pride Parade.
“It’s been great,” Wilcott said. “Each year, we marched in the parade. Once we put up the nets on the grass, everybody was just drawn to us because everybody was having fun. We had 150 people coming over and playing tennis on the grass and having a blast.”
Wilcott has been using tennis for good for years. In 1993, she organized a three-day New England pro/am and event to raise money for the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.
“For whatever reason, I was drawn to him,” Wilcott said of Ashe. “He just seemed like a really classy guy. I happened to be visiting my brother on a trip when I happened to pick up one of his pamphlets at a tournament. [Ashe] died a couple months later. I thought, ‘This would be a good thing to do at my club.’ We raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over a nine-year span and got great support from our community and our club.”
By pursuing her many passions, Wilcott has found a way to do it all.
“For many reasons, everything has led me back into tennis,” Wilcott said. “I still love it. It’s been a long time that I’ve been in the field. But I still really enjoy it. I always do what I love to do. That’s why I’m still doing it.”