There’s No Place Like Home
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center teaching professionals Tooli Wilkins and David Stingley know “There’s no place like home.” After clicking their tennis shoes together once finishing their college careers, the duo came back to the place that has given them so much the past 20 years.
Both started playing at Fred Wells when they were eight years old. One of their earliest memories at The Fort was traveling to Kansas City to play in the 10U Junior Team Tennis Regional Championships in 2002. Excited to go on a trip with their friends and “stay in a hotel with a Play Place and pool,” the Fred Wells Hot Shots surprised even themselves, taking home the championship trophy, which still proudly hangs on the upstairs wall to this day.
“I know we won, but it was more about being with my best friends and playing tennis,” Tooli said. “It was awesome.”
Playing together through high school, both went on to play college tennis - Tooli at North Carolina-Greensboro and David at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. After graduating and trying a few things, both ultimately decided to come back to the place where it all started for them.
“I thought it would be cool to give back and be the person I looked up to when I was little and playing tennis,” Tooli said. “My coaches at Fred Wells were my role models growing up. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to come back and be someone’s role model, I would jump at the chance.”
Now embracing their role model status, they love sharing what they learned as students at Fred Wells on their players today.
“Playing at The Fort helped me learn balance,” David said. “Tennis has always been fun for me but growing up here taught me when to take it serious and when to just have fun.”
“I learned that tennis is so much more than a game. It taught me hard work, community, dedication and passion – not only passion about the game, but about other things in life,” Tooli said.
They also are proof that is that tennis is for EVERYONE! Recognizing how significant it was for them to have teaching professionals and role models of color while growing up, Tooli and David hope to have the same impact on the lives of their students.
“That is what makes The Fort so unique and special,” David said. “Almost everyone that worked with Tooli and I growing up was a person of color and came from a different culture. It showed us that no matter what color your skin, or your background, we could all come together as one and play a sport we love. We hope to promote the same feeling today.”
There’s no place like home.