Intro: Local Indigenous tennis star and high school student Lily Pade has just returned from Fiji, playing in her first overseas tennis tournament. She’s also recently received the Grace Roberts Community Development Award for her sporting achievements and on top of all that is finding time for her studies, as well as coaching other young tennis players!
Hi Lily. Tell us about your relationship with the Coffs Coast.
I was born and raised here in Coffs Harbour and attended Karangi Primary School as a fifth-generation student. I attend Coffs Harbour High School, and I’m in Year 11. My family on my dad’s side were early pioneers, who arrived in Coffs/Orara Valley in the 1880s. My mum’s family come from the Dorrigo, Uralla and Inverell areas, with my Indigenous tribe being the Anaiwan Tribe from the Uralla area.
You have recently been selected to go to the 2019 Fiji Open Tennis Championships. How did you feel when you first received the call?
Receiving the phone call about being selected in the Australian Indigenous Touring Team was awesome. I felt honoured to be one of three Indigenous girls from around Australia to be selected – a massive thanks to the Evonne Goolagong Foundation and Tennis Australia for organising this awesome opportunity.
What was it like heading over to Fiji and competing in the championship?
Heading over to Fiji, I was feeling nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect, as I had never played an overseas tournament before. My goal into the tournament was to play well, try my hardest in every point and have fun. I feel like I achieved my goal.
What other countries were you competing against, and how did you place?
The tournament consisted of countries throughout Pacific Oceania. Some of them included: Kiribati, Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Fiji. I made the Quarter Finals in the Singles and Semi-Finals in the doubles.
2019 has been quite the year for you, and you were awarded with the Indigenous Athlete of the Year. What was it like winning such a prestigious award?
To be nominated and then winning the 2019 Grace Roberts Sports Achievement Award was a great honour. I’m happy that my results and achievements have been recognised. Also, recently I was the winner of the 2019 North Coast Academy of Sport (NCAS) Indigenous Athlete of the Year for my results over the last 12 months.
When you’re not competing, you are coaching others. How important is it to you to pass on your knowledge?
I love coaching and teaching the young ones coming through at Westside Tennis Club; it is really satisfying to see the improvement in their tennis skills and to watch them also begin to love the game of tennis.
What has been your best moment on a tennis court so far?
Apart from the fun that I have with my friends when travelling around the countryside playing tournaments, a tournament that sticks out in my mind is actually a tournament that I didn’t win. In September last year, I played in the 2018 QLD State Age in Rockhampton, where I made the final of the 16 Girls Singles, losing to my good friend from Cairns in a three-setter, 4/6 7/6 6/7 which went for four hours.
Another great moment that I’ve really enjoyed is the many teams events I have been selected in over the years and in particular the North Coast CHS Team, where back in 2016 our team won the NSW Combined High Schools event, and in doing so, we became the first North Coast team to take out this event in the history of this event.
How do you keep such a busy schedule with competition, coaching and school?
My week is very hectic with not much downtime, but being involved with sport has taught me a lot of life skills that will be used in the future. I’m also undertaking a School-Based Traineeship at Coffs Harbour City Council whilst completing a Certificate 2 in Business.
If you weren’t playing tennis, what would you like to be?
I am currently studying Indigenous Studies and PDHPE for my HSC and would like to combine my love for sport and my desire to encourage Indigenous youth to help them excel in their chosen sport.
What do you think is the key to such a successful tennis career so far, and where do you see it going in the future?
Well, you have to love playing, have a commitment and a passion for the sport. Some of my best friends are my tennis friends, so having mates with the same mindset as you make it easy. I’m hoping to continue to play and enjoy my tennis. There are so many opportunities in tennis, be it playing or coaching.