FuturePros Tennis Academy coaches AJ Lindner-Thompson and Kiel Lindner have been honoured by Tennis Australia at the John Newcombe Medal Tennis Australia awards in Melbourne on October 27.
The local coaches were flown down to the award ceremony at Crown Casino’s ballroom by Tennis Australia alongside their young coaches and up and coming players Hunter Thompson and Jenna Potts and wheelchair tennis player Katherine Russell.
During the award ceremony the coaches were recognised for their Wheelchair Tennis and Inclusive Tennis programs with a three minute video which led the sport’s biggest names to seek out both AJ and Kiel to offer their thanks in what AJ said was an evening she will never forget.
“It was an absolute epic night,” she said.
“We knew there was going to be a video played or some sort of clip on our coaching but we had no idea other than we knew it was going to be about the wheelchair and inclusiveness programs that we do.
“We were just sitting there enjoying this beautiful dinner and then the next minute the Tennis Australia guys come up to us with the camera and they were like, ‘right you are on in the next five minutes’.
“Then the next second Todd Woodbridge is next to us and he is starting to talk to us, but before he even started the interview he just gave us the biggest genuine congratulations and thanks for everything we do.”
“We did the interview with Todd and they were just asking us what we do and why we do it, and just talking about how rare it is that there is a sporting group let alone tennis group that is wanting everyone there, not just wanting the superstars there, the fact that we want everyone to join us no matter what they have to offer.”
Lindner-Thompson said after the video finished the coaches were blown away by the response from other awards attendees.
“Holy moly after that it went absolutely and utterly nutcase, we had gone there so excited to get to see our idols and we had Alicia Molik walk up in search of us to meet us,” she said.
“Daria Gavrilova has then asked someone to find where this AJ and Kiel were in the room...she was just so beautiful and she was just amazed by Hunter and Jenna at their age to be so giving to such inclusiveness, not just what they see as their immediate peers.
“Sam Groth, the fastest server in the world, he came up and he was another one who like Alicia and Todd, who was just an absolute genuine person who kept saying how grateful he was for what we do and how inspired he was by what we do.
“He was like anything you ever need you just contact me and I’m there.
“We got Lleyton Hewitt come up, Sam Stosur also came up to us.
“To have people recognise you and our absolute idols, people like Lleyton Hewitt hug you and thank you it was like this is a childhood dream.
“We would go for a walk to the toilet and we’d come back to our table and there would be 1-15 people lined up to meet you and they would say we just want to get a photo with you and congratulate you.”
Lindner-Thompson said the team at FuturePros will now look to expand on the wheelchair and inclusive tennis programs which are designed to be inclusive of players with both physical and mental disabilities.
“We need to sit down and ground ourselves and think about what do we do with this support we have been given.
“We need to decide exactly where we take this now and now we know we have the support of so many people to help us achieve this.
“Now it’s time to encourage some kids that otherwise thought that they couldn't do anything, it’s time to get it out there and really expand that side of what we do and let more people feel that feeling of being able to do this.”