As NSWC tennis instructor Joe Wood and I chill out in the cafeteria, it’s pretty clear pretty early how important the sport is to not only Joe and his athletes, but to so many people all over the world who play tennis.
“All you need to play is a racket and a ball,” says Joe. “Anyone can do it, but it’s the thrill of competition that really got me.”
Joe has plied his trade as a player and a coach from North Vancouver to London, England and nearly everywhere in between, but it was a brief opportunity that brought him to the club - a place he intends to stay.
Kelvin: How did you get into tennis? What brought you to the club?
Joe Wood: I started playing in England, I’m originally from the UK. I began when I was 4 or 5, and through the years tennis took me to the University of New Mexico which is where my journey to Vancouver started. On my team in New Mexico were three guys from Vancouver. My fiancé and I were working in London and she had an opportunity to transfer to Canada so she told her company the only place she’d go was Vancouver. That gave me an opportunity to get into the tennis community here and meet Kamil Pajkowski who put me in touch with Fabio. Fabio offered me a few hours to start and gave me an opportunity and I’ve built up the hours. And I’m still here (laughs).
I love the character of the club, it’s very family-oriented. I see a lot of families who I coach have kids playing hockey and tennis - it’s a great social club and I absolutely love that aspect.
Regarding my next question for Joe: I love how whenever I ask this question each coach immediately reverts back into a young kid, a child re-discovering their love for the game to which they’ve given so much.
What do you like about the game - why do you play?
Oh wow, good question. I obviously got into it at an early age, I played tennis but I was also a huge soccer fan. But I truly took to tennis because it was individual competition and I thrived on that. I actually prefer to play in a team environment, that’s the best experience a tennis player can have, playing an individual sport in a team environment. I entered the NSWC A1 team into the spring leagues because I wanted to get back playing myself in a team environment. So I get to coach and play at the same time here.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I think I try to be very positive and try to get a good energy out the session. You don’t want it to be like work. It’s so diverse because one minute I’m coaching a 4 year-old and the next it’s an 84 year-old, so in that sense you have to be totally diverse. I love being a positive influence on everyone I coach and obviously help them be the best players they can be.
What did you take in university?
My degree is in interpersonal communications.
Did that help your coaching career? Did you plan on being a career coach or is it something that grew out of your playing career?
My degree definitely helped, coaching and tennis in general is all about communicating with different types of people and different age groups. When I moved to London I was an assistant television producer for the premier league, which involved sitting in a studio all day. I was around tennis which I thought would be great, but I was so close yet still so far away from the game, you know? There was definitely something missing. I needed to get back on the court and coming to Vancouver gave me that opportunity and it’s something I think I’ll do forever.
Why is tennis important to you?
Generally it’s a great way to be active and everyone can play, all you really need is a racquet and a ball. It’s a great way to get out and socialize while you’re being active. It’s something kids need nowadays. For myself I’ve had just some amazing experiences, travelling all over the world being able to play and honestly I could probably go somewhere in the world and know someone in that place. It’s also the rewards I see when kids are winning matches and tournaments. The ladies we coach, they’re winning matches and competing in league play and that’s so rewarding for me and why I keep playing and coaching.
Joe is the perfect example of a young coach who’s traveled different paths both physically as well as mentally. He’s seen the sport at its highest levels and he’s been within arm’s reach without actually holding a racquet. His appreciation for tennis and the joy he gets from coaching has been built up from all angles during his time playing, going to university, working and eventually coaching.
Joe is at his best when he’s on the court helping others. And according to Joe, you can help yourself just by getting on the court.
“Anyone can play, and anyone can get better.”