Emma Doyle Finds Unique Ways to Make an Impact

Lucas Casás, USPTA CEO

Emma Doyle answers the phone on a wintry afternoon in a small town an hour north of Oslo, Norway. She and her partner Tina are in town to speak at an upcoming tennis teachers conference.

“We’re heading up on Monday to try to catch the northern lights before the conference,” Doyle said. “Heading right up to the top.”

It’s hard to catch Doyle in one place for too long. She splits time between her native Melbourne, Australia; Scotland and her adopted home of Denver, Colo., using tennis to offer motivational and educational presentations to coaches, players and corporations around the globe.

Doyle, a USPTA Elite Professional, finds unique ways to incorporate tennis into other people’s lives, too.

Years ago, back home in Melbourne, Doyle started a dating service, Doubles for Singles, where people would gather for tennis at clubs and table tennis in pubs. The only rule was they weren’t allowed to ask two questions: where the person lived, and what they did for a living. The idea was to develop interesting questioning skills, like what they like to eat for breakfast on Sunday morning.

“I’m not saying they’re unique questions, but they shed more light about who a person is,” Doyle said. “That was the secret sauce, if you will, to the program, which was super fun.”

And it gave Doyle two marriages – “one is still together, so 50/50 odds is pretty good,” she laughed.

But what tennis has really given Doyle is an outlet – a means of communicating her passion for player development and female empowerment. And it stuck with her even when she thought of leaving the game.

There was a time when Doyle started getting burned out from life on the court. She started studying anything she could on emotional intelligence, neurolinguistic programming and life coaching, all in preparation for a career change.

Instead, it “catapulted me back into tennis.”

“Once I realized I had to have more coaching tools in my toolkit and more strategies on how to adapt my language, that’s why I got back into coaching coaches how to coach,” she said. “Whether you are coaching an athlete or someone in the corporate world, the core principles are very similar and lend well towards unleashing human potential.”

The ripple effect

It was in 2016 when Doyle felt compelled to fight the dropout rate among teenage girls in sports.

“Corporate leadership is linked to playing sport when you’re growing up," she said. “I felt that was important, to keep girls connected with sport, because female empowerment is one of the greatest underutilized resources in the world.”

So Doyle decided to host a Girl Power camp. To warm up, she incorporated the dances from Miss-Hits, a program started by Judy Murray, the mother of Jamie and Andy Murray, in which each character has a specific tennis shot and dance to get them excited about tennis while building their confidence.

“Judy said, ‘This is grand! Can you be in Scotland in two weeks and show me what you’re doing?’” she said. “That was the birth of the Girl Power camps.”

They’ve since grown from just Girl Power camps to include numerous presentations and coach education sessions. Before the camp begins, the coaches learn about the research behind why girls drop out of sport and the fundamental principles of the camp.

Then the teenage girls arrive so that the coaches can learn on the job, experience first-hand what it feels like and see how to bring a Girl Power camp to life.

She incorporates three main principles: engage the students by listening to their values, develop their tennis knowledge and skills and empower them through encouraging language “to strengthen their inner voice.”

Though she’s only been putting on camps for about three years, they’ve had a big impact.

Since she hosted a camp at the Victorian Tennis Academy in Melbourne in 2017, Tina Keown, the director of the academy, has hosted four Girl Power camps and will host a fifth this Easter.

“The ripple effect is the fact that it’s become an integrated part of their player pathway,” she said. “They’ve adopted it as being important and have seen a dramatic shift in the retention of female players in their business.”

The ultimate goal, she says, is to keep girls connected with sports, “in a way that’s important to them, listening to their values and providing an environment where they feel like they belong.”

“I can go to her with anything”

It was almost by accident that Doyle fell into coaching.

She was 14 and the kick-serve had just come out. There was only one coach around who could teach it, but her parents couldn’t afford another private lesson, so Doyle traded a lesson as a student for one as a coach.

“I remember walking off the court after my first lesson, which I realize is very rare, but thinking this is the greatest job in the world,” she said. “How can I be the best coach that I can be?"

Doyle has asked herself that question nearly every day since. For her, it’s by reaching other coaches.

She is a motivating, energetic public speaker, as she showed at the 2019 World Conference in Las Vegas, where she gave an on-court presentation called “Game of Zones – Unlocking the ROGY Pathway.”

And she’s also proven herself an inspiring mentor.

Neely Zervakis, a USPTA Elite Professional and the associate director of tennis at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center in Virginia, first met Doyle at the USPTA Mid-Atlantic Conference in 2019.

“I loved her presentation on Aussie doubles tactics,” Zervakis said. “Afterwards I went up to express how amazing and helpful her presentation was. We instantly connected and bonded, sharing our passions.”

Doyle has mentored Zervakis ever

“I can go to her with anything,” Zervakis said.

Zervakis said Doyle’s knowledge of neurolinguistic programming has been especially helpful, and not just on the court, but in life.

“It’s about how our thinking affects how we feel and how our feelings affect how we behave,” she said. “She taught me to try to never tell a player what they are doing wrong, but to use powerful key phrases, like ‘imagine if’ or ‘next time what we can do is,’ which allows them to problem solve on their own and build their mental strength.”

Not long ago, Doyle ran a Girl Power camp for disadvantaged girls in New Jersey. She said that the next day, a young girl “fired off her anchor and her affirmation” before a track meet and ran a personal best.

“They’re the little things that still give me a tremendous buzz because that is why I coach,” Doyle said. “You have to be passionate about wanting to see the growth of another human.

We’re all in the character-building game, because how many of those kids actually go on to have a day like [Sofia] Kenin did at the Aussie Open? Not many. It’s about how you take those skills and apply them to the greater good so that we can all unleash our potential.”

Emma Doyle (middle) offering corrections during her presentation at the 2019 World Conference in Las Vegas.