Jacksonville's Waller Named USTA Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month
Marie Waller's introduction to tennis at just 9 years old was no doubt a boon for the sport in Jacksonville.
"I began swimming for the local swimming club at an early age, but once I was given a tennis racquet there was no turning back," Waller says, thinking back to her childhood in Sweden. "Tennis became my passion."
It's easy to recall that day for Waller; she rode her bike to the local tennis courts and started to hit balls against the wall with an old racquet she found in the garage.
"As I was hitting, one of the pros Sten Palmer approached me and told me that I had good hand-eye coordination and said I should ask my parents to sign me up for the junior tennis program he was running," she remembers. "I raced home, told my parents, and the following week they signed me up and I have played tennis ever since."
A few years later in 1986, Waller left Sweden to play collegiate tennis in the U.S. and finish her degree in Computer Art & Design at Jacksonville University. In 1993 she got involved with the Jacksonville tennis community – where she still volunteers today. For Waller, volunteering is about helping others and making a difference in the community.
"I love supporting and giving to others," she says. "Tennis has given me so much and I appreciate all the ways others have helped me with my tennis and career over the years."
Waller's motto is "the more I give, the more I get". She says her volunteer work with adults with special needs has been one of the most rewarding experiences in her life.
"Giving back and touching other people’s lives in some way or the other through my gift of teaching tennis is a great feeling and very fulfilling," she says.
Waller, now 53, serves as the Director of Tennis at the San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville. In 2019, one of her biggest accomplishments was hosting a "no tech night" with over 100 participants.
"Parents and juniors enjoyed playing tennis together and if anyone used their phone during the event, they would lose a point or a game. It was a huge success."
Being the Director of Tennis at one of the most reputable clubs in Jacksonville is a major achievement for Waller. While it may be "work", she loves interacting with the club's members, hosting events for them, and teaching them a game they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. That point alone is just one of the reasons why tennis is so meaningful to her.
"There are so many things that I love about the sport," she shares. "If I had to pick just a couple I would say all the wonderful people that I have met through playing tennis and that it is a sport for all ages that keeps you active."
USTA Florida thanks Marie Waller for her commitment to expanding community tennis opportunities in Duval County.
Birthplace: Halmstad, Sweden
Family: Husband Glynn, boys Alexander and Adam
Favorite Movie: "I don’t really have one... but I do watch a lot of Netflix."
Favorite Food: My mom's food
Favorite Travel Spot: Sweden
Favorite Shot: Chip & Charge, Drop shots
My earliest tennis memory was... "Hitting on 'the wall' at the local tennis courts in Sweden and one of the coaches came up and told me that I had 'ball skills' and should ask my parents to sign me up for the junior tennis program. That was in 1975! And I have played tennis since that day."
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be... "Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and McEnroe."
When I am not playing tennis I am... "Spending time with my family. Going to golf tournaments with my boys."
My best tennis memory is... "Going to Nationals 2008 in Tucson with my 18 & over team."
I like to volunteer in tennis because... "It is a way for me to give back to a sport that I love."
Interested in volunteering in tennis? Visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Volunteers to learn more about available opportunities.