Happy Mother's Day!!!
Susan Allen Is Grateful
USTANorthern | May 11, 2018
In honor of Mother’s Day, USTA Northern would like to thank all of those tennis moms who introduce the sport of a lifetime to their children, shuttle them back and forth to lessons and matches and ultimately are the glue that holds that holds everything together. USTA Northern Board Member Susan Allen of Shakopee, Minn., is that mom. Read what tennis has meant to her over the years.
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 truly an exciting year as we placed fourth at the NCAA tournament. While there, I also adopted legendary coach Steve Wilkinson’s Three Crowns - effort, attitude and sportsmanship - as my personal philosophy for life.
After transferring to St. Cloud State, I became the first Husky player to advance to the NCAA Division ll tournament. My tennis family there taught me how to enjoy the sport and still have time for school and other activities.
Upon graduation, I intended to go to law school, but had the opportunity to coach in Europe. I traveled with top-ranked juniors through four different countries (I still keep in touch with a few), and eventually, that led to coaching and traveling with adult groups as well. It was then I fell in love with teaching tennis and never quite made it to law school.
After getting married in 1994 to my husband Erik, who I met at Gustavus my freshman year, I continued teaching tennis, making many life-long friends. Honestly, I cannot imagine my life without them. Then in 1998, I received a late Christmas present - our son Jackson - and my life was changed forever.
I wanted to continue teaching my students, but that was difficult as a young mom. Often times, my “free babysitting’ at the tennis club daycare facility would expire and the “moms” from the club would watch Jackson so I could teach their daughters.
My career continued as Jackson grew, but he never wanted to go in the nursery so I had to bribe him. The carrot for Jackson was playing tennis or anything that had to do with the sport! If he was good at the nursery, we would give him hand-me-down tennis shorts and shirts from his boyhood idol, Wyatt McCoy. Ironically, Wyatt now teaches Jackson’s younger sister, Lily, the skills of the game at Life Time Fitness – St. Louis Park. It is funny how everything comes full circle.
Jackson’s brother, Brooks, entered the world in 2000 and we soon moved to Shakopee. I started working at a new club and Jackson kept playing tennis. He loved the game almost as much as I did.
With all the blessings tennis had bestowed upon me, I couldn’t have been happier, but also knew it was time for me to start giving back to the game. With the help of USTA Northern, I formed a junior tennis program, and in turn, became friends with many of the top kids in our Section. Those friendships continued through Jackson’s participation in USTA Junior Tournaments both locally and nationally. Although the boys ended up at different clubs over the year, the friendships remain strong and now five of them are playing college tennis. Amazing!
I then worked with many in the community to delivering tennis programming to kids and adults through the Shakopee Tennis Association. We have more than 250 kids in the program and I love the fact I can give kids and parents a glimpse of what tennis has to offer all day, every day during the summer.
When the boys varsity head coach position opened up at Shakopee High School, I was offered the job and asked two of my closest tennis people - Jack Roach and Jenny Arnfelt - to join me. Honestly, coaching high school tennis has given me some most memorable tennis experiences, including the opportunity to coach Jackson. Let me tell you, coaching your own child is not easy. Many times, I had to “walk” away from the courts and into the school to cool my temper.
During Jackson’s junior year of high school, he was playing for the state championship. I will never forget walking out to coach him, although I did not need to say much as he was in the zone that day and playing some of his best tennis. After the final point, Jack and Jenny motioned for me to walk on to the court first so I could congratulate my “state champion.” Sharing that hug with Jackson meant more than anyone will ever know. It was Jackson’s match of a lifetime, but also my memory of a lifetime. You can understand why I am so grateful to the game of tennis.
Although Brooks played on the high school team with Jackson, his true love is basketball which makes his Dad happy since he played basketball at Gustavus. He is an excellent player and has transferred the life lessons he learned on the tennis court to the basketball hardwood and beyond. Now Brooks understands delayed gratification, the value of resilience, the importance of team building and the good results of hard work. Although I miss him playing tennis, I am doubly proud of what he has achieved on the basketball court.
My youngest daughter, Lily, is delightful. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) at an early age and although she started her sports career a little later than the boys, she is quickly making up for lost time. JIA may have sidelined her in the beginning, but it has also given her an unmatched resolve which I am now seeing on the tennis court.
Tennis has provided our family with more than we could ever dream. Now you will see us supporting Jackson and his new coaches and teammates at the University of Minnesota most weekends. Our extended family is there too as earlier this season four of my cousins and one uncle who had never seen him play tennis were all in the stands singing the Minnesota Rouser and cheering him to victory. Jackson’s tennis career is at a whole new level and all of his hard works is paying off in ways we never imagined. I just wish the tears of pride would stop filling my eyes when I see him play. Honestly, I really am tougher than that!
Tennis has given me so much. People often ask me to rank all these memories, but it is impossible. They all mean so much. The people I have met and come to love along this incredible journey, the places I have traveled, the support not only my immediate family, but my even bigger tennis family provides me, and the values I have learned have made me the mother, wife and teacher I am today!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the tennis moms out there!