ONE of the most recognisable faces within the Mount Gambier tennis fraternity was presented with a special honour last week.
A shocked Cassie Edwards was awarded Mount Gambier and District Tennis Association life membership at the annual general meeting last Monday.
Since arriving in the Blue Lake city 27 years ago, Edwards has been a tennis player, coach and administrator.
The passionate sports person said she was touched by the recognition.
“I am extremely honoured to have my name on the honour board alongside some very big names in Mount Gambier tennis,” she said.
“Throughout my tennis life this is certainly my biggest achievement.”
Edwards was supposed to receive the honour at the association’s end-of-season presentations back in March.
However, COVID-19 forced the announcement to be delayed until now and amazingly Edwards’ family managed to keep it a secret for those five months.
Edwards said it was an achievement she would remember forever.
“I was completely shocked and surprised,” she said.
“Peter Mitchell presented the life membership to me and he played in the first tennis team I was involved in here, so it was nice he could present it.
“All my children turned up to the AGM and I was really humbled by the whole presentation.”
Edwards’ Mount Gambier tennis journey began in 1993 when she moved to the Limestone Coast with her family from Adelaide.
Previously she had played Division 1 in the Glenelg Districts Tennis Association and the Adelaide pennants competition after first picking up a racket competitively at the age of 12.
After the late start she represented South Australia in several junior state events and claimed a couple of titles.
Despite an enjoyable and successful upbringing in Adelaide, Edwards has no regrets about the move to Mount Gambier.
“My husband and I moved here for a lifestyle choice to bring our children up in the country and it was the best decision I have ever made,” she said.
“Straight away I was approached by the Mount Gambier Tennis Club and someone who I played with in Adelaide Jenny Jones was there at the time, so I played for them for a few years and we had some success winning a couple of A1 premierships.”
After a flourishing start at the Mount Gambier Tennis Club, Edwards moved to Centrals for a brief period before landing at Reidy Park where she remained for the rest of her full-time playing career.
With multiple A1 premierships, Edwards said the club holds a special place in her heart.
“Reidy Park is definitely the club I associate myself with the most,” she said.
“My girls came through and played there so it is like our family club.
“I was heavily involved there being the junior coordinator for a number of years, doing lots of coaching, sitting on the committee and winning some premierships.”
Edwards could not put a number on how many premierships she had won during her playing days, but reflected on a couple of standouts.
“My favourite ones were when I got to play with two of my daughters Ashlea and Laura in an A1 premiership, that was very special,” she said.
She finally called time on her playing career in 2011, but has not put the racket away for good and continues to fill in for her daughters’ club Glencoe when called upon.
Edwards’ legacy is not only defined by her playing feats and her resume off the court is even more impressive.
She first joined the Lakes Junior Tennis committee in 2004 and has held the chairperson role for the last 14 years.
Edwards also played a major role behind the scenes for Reidy Park and the Blue Lake Women’s Classic, while she has been a member of the MGDTA committee for over a decade.
Since 2003 she has been a full-time tennis coach and has become the go-to expert for players of all ages and abilities in the Limestone Coast.
Edwards has mentored thousands of one-on-one sessions and been the region’s Foundation Cup coach for over 10 years, while also running various group sessions.
“Junior tennis has been my passion and tennis coaching is extremely rewarding,” she said.
“The biggest benefit is watching my players develop not just as players, but people as well.”
After almost three decades in the Limestone Coast tennis community, Edwards said she could not imagine life without it and vowed to remain on court for many years to come.
“Tennis has been a big part of my family’s life,” she said.
“Back in the early days my kids would play in the morning, then it was my turn in the afternoon and we would all stay for a barbecue during the night.
“It was our social event and I will certainly continue coaching on the court for as long as I can.”