Aron Pilbart, 14, has gone from shovelling snow off Penticton tennis courts in winter to play his favourite sport, to competing in the world’s most elite junior tournaments.
Pilbart, who moved with his parents from Penticton to North Vancouver in 2015, was one of two Canadian boys selected to compete in tournaments in Bolton, England and at Les Petits As (Small Champions) in Tarbes, France this month.
“This has just been amazing, it’s a mini grand slam as I would call it. It’s just a really, huge, huge tournament and my first time,” said Pilbart in a telephone interview Wednesday after finishing his doubles match in the French tournament. “I gained a lot of experience for the future and makes me want to do better in the next tournament. It just gets me to a new level.”
Pilbart is in France with teammate and doubles partner Jaden Weekes of LaSalle, Que. and Tennis Canada national coach Ralph Platz.
|Tennis Canada national team coach Ralph Platz and Aron Pilbart off court at the prestigious Les Petit As tournament in France on Wednesday.
“It’s just a sport I love more and more everyday,” said Pilbart who mainly learned how to play growing up in Penticton and who still has friends here. “I love competing, I love being on the court. It’s taught me independence and it’s taught me how to take care of myself because most of the time your on your own.
“My goal is to one day play professional tennis.”
Coach Platz believes his young charge has a good shot at his dream.
“I think being from Canada and from a small town this (tournament) is a little overwhelming,” he said. “We’re at an event now like this one where there are thousands of people around and agents, so it’s not easy.”
“We lost the first round here but Aron’s game is progressing nicely. As I tell these kids, this is the biggest under 14 tournament in the world but it doesn’t define your career, the results aren’t the be all and end all but they’re obviously a stepping stone to where you want to go.”
Off the court he described Pilbart as a “happy go lucky disciplined kid” and an aggressive baseline player in his matches.
|Aron Pilbart and teammate Jaden Weekes with the Canadian flag Wednesday at the French tennis tournament Les Petit As.
Pilbart’s mother Reka remembers her son’s frustration while growing up in Penticton with limited playing options and no indoor court.
“Tennis ‘preparation’ in winter for Pilbart before the big weekend competition in Vancouver meant cleaning snow off the court and at times it was too cold for the ball to bounce,” recalled Reka. “Despite these challenges, Aron was still all smiles and determined to be driven to Vancouver, almost every weekend. Many times, it was just for one match as he lost in the first round. After each tournament, he was begging to move to the coast, so he can train on a regular basis and belong to a club where he can enjoy tennis with kids, not just with adults.”
But it was Pilbart’s statement to his parents one day that sealed the deal and sent the family packing.
“The subject of moving to Vancouver became an intimidating one, but not after he told us that, ‘one day you will thank me that we moved to Vancouver,’ as parents, we felt speechless; instead of us giving encouragement to our boy, he did it for us.”
Reka added that now as part of the Tennis Canada National Program her son is in “seventh heaven” and despite training for four or five hours a day, he remains a top student.
And his tennis is over the top with great finishes in national events and earning sponsorships from Wilson and the Quebec-based clothing company, Ionik.
Prior to this the recent trip overseas, he spent a month in Florida.
“He’s been to Europe already two times, Germany, Austria as well as the USA so regularly that sometimes we hardly see him at home,” said Reka. “Aron enjoys being on the road. Since age 10 he’s been travelling with the team. He loves it. He’s living his dream.”