Former Tennis pro brings the game to the outback

Edward ScownMidwest Times
Fun in the sun at Tarcoola Park in December.
Camera IconFun in the sun at Tarcoola Park in December. Credit: Reuben Carder/Geraldton Guardian

17,000km in eight weeks. That’s the life of Geraldton-based tennis coach Jarron Kretschmann as he and his team introduce tennis to some of WA’s most remote communities.

Kretschmann arrived in Geraldton in 2008, and immediately set to work coaching on the blacktop court in Drummond Cove, but his Far North Queensland upbringing drew his eye to the small towns along the Mid West coast.

“I looked at all these towns and there was just nothing for tennis north of Geraldton,” he said.

“I just picked up the phone and discovered there was a desire for coaching.”

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Utilising connections through his Tarcoola Park academy, Kretschmann loaded up a van with swags and tennis gear, and went bush.

Kretschmann is no stranger to travel. Growing up, an hour commute to practice was the norm. Once he went pro, it got even worse.

“You’re living point to point, every point costs you a dollar or makes you a dollar. You’re living week to week, match to match. It’s a grind,” he said.

“You get used to sleeping in airports, bus stations, or whatever vehicle you happen to be travelling in.”

As the injuries piled up, Kretschmann called time on his short professional career, and fell out of love with the game. Having spent so much of his youth chasing his tennis dream, he said he didn’t have time to be a kid until he retired aged 24.

“I stepped away from the game for 12 months, and got a job at Hungry Jacks. I figured, that’s what all teenagers do right?”

“I think (Nick) Kyrgios said it recently. You get all this fame and attention early, and you’re still a teenager.”

It wasn’t until a call from his coach saying “it’s time to give back,” that Kretschmann discovered his desire to coach.

“It was an instant reconnect with the game. I enjoyed working with an athlete, and seeing a kid develop and grow.”

Since 2016, he’s made a life of visiting country WA towns, from Kalbarri and Carnarvon, right up to some of the farthest corners of the Pilbara. Kids in many of the remote towns, he said, have never seen a tennis racquet, let alone played the game.

“Sometimes tennis is seen as a non-traditional game in Australia, which is disappointing. But if you look at the Aboriginal success in the game, two of the most recognisable players are Evonne Goolagong and Ash Barty, two Aboriginal women. The girls are blown away when you say that.”

As his program is mostly school based, Kretschmann finds another positive is that kids are more inclined to go to school when he’s in town.

“We’re not a flash in the pan program. If we’re going to come to you, we’re going to come at least once a year.

“We went to Kalumburu the first time, and the teachers were adamant, you’ll get maybe 20 per cent of the kids at school on the Monday. By Wednesday, almost every class was full.”

With support from an array of local businesses, and the help of Darren Patten and Ian Goolagong — brother of tennis champion Evonne Goolagong-Cawley — Kretschmann spends most of his year on the road, and plans to keep coaching remote kids for as long as he can.

“We’ve had a rare experience to be able to take tennis to these remote areas.

“Tennis is a national game, it’s been around since before any other sport, and it’d be great to see more kids playing tennis in the Mid West.”

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