James Woodhouse has played cricket, rugby, basketball and baseball.
But he has fallen in love with a sport his mother Lucy played as a child.
“My mom grew up around tennis. She played a long time,” said Woodhouse, whose family moved to Canada from South Africa in 2003. “Her dad (Bill Howard) got her into it.”
Woodhouses mother was able to play a lot because her family had a court at their house. James and sister Amy didn’t enjoy the same privilege. In South Africa, courts are only available to people who are members of a private club or school.
Woodhouse was introduced to tennis at Pen High Secondary, where he plays for the Lakers.
“I wish I did start earlier,” said the 17-year-old, a fan of Roger Federer. “I think I was just kind of the natural at it and I just kind of caught on right away.”
Woodhouse helped the Lakers place seventh at provincials in Vancouver as he won three of his four matches. Taking lessons and soaking up information from Lakers coaches John Milligan and Helena Konanz, whom Woodhouse praises, has helped.
“She is very inspiring,” he said of Konanz, a pro player from 1983-88. “She played in Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the French Open.”
“You wouldn’t know it by looking at him,” said Konanz in regards to the short period he has played. “His strokes look as if he’s been playing tennis since he was a little kid. He has beautiful strokes and is such a natural player. Every time he gets out there I see improvement, mainly because he loves it so much.”
Last year Woodhouse really didn’t know how to compete, but had the basics down. This year he continued to learn and was strong during matches.
“His doubles play in particular was fantastic,” said Konanz. “He learned this year the proper place to stand and the strategies he needed to use and how to effectively use his height and strength to overpower his opponents.”
During provincials, Konanz just wanted him to gain experience and have fun. Woodhouse impressed by taking advantage of his size (six-foot-five) as he overwhelmed opponents. Woodhouse said his size gives him an advantage on serves.
“I can hit the ball more down on an angle,” said Woodhouse.
“He really was an imposing force playing doubles and got better with each match,” she said. “The best thing though is the grin on his face while he’s playing.”
Konanz only sees Woodhouse getting better and becoming one of the top players on the team. She wants to see him play tournaments this summer to give him more experience.
Woodhouse said he intends to play three times a week during the summer with his mother, friends and sister, who was also on the Lakers team. He said Amy gets really frustrated “because we are at different levels.”
“When I’m up three love, she kind of quits and says that she just wants to rally,” said Woodhouse. “I just kind of laugh it off. Sure we can just rally.”