By AIDEN BURGESS
WHEN Danny Sousa first arrived in Coffs Harbour in 1995, the sport he loved was in a dire situation.
"When I first moved here, not one kid was playing tennis at our club, nor were many adults," he said.
The current Coffs Harbour Tennis Club manager also faced other problems.
"I had no family or local connections, and no experience running a tennis club," he said.
Now 10 years later and the club is going from strength to strength, due largely to Sousa's coaching and management expertise.
A decade in charge has seen Sousa improve facilities and playing numbers dramatically, especially among juniors.
He has overseen the general upgrading of facilities, which included the resurfacing of clay courts to synthetic grass, and the implementation of the NSW Tennis Development Program (TDC) to help elite junior players.
The club is one of three regional bases of the TDC and Sousa will give them the best preparation possible.
"Within a year our juniors will have world-class training, which is a goal of mine," he said.
Before arriving in Coffs Harbour, Sousa coached in Sydney for an eight-year period and also played satellite tournaments throughout Europe and in Hawaii.
It was while playing a tournament in Coffs Harbour that he first noticed the promise of tennis in the region.
"I saw the potential of the players, the good location and weather, and that the kids were athletically inclined," he said.
Inspired by that potential, he decided to move here permanently and become a prominent tennis personality in the region.
Sousa's career highlights involve both playing and coaching achievements.
They include winning the Lanai Open in Hawaii in 1993, and coaching Craig Watkin to the Special Olympics at Hobart in 1998.
He has contributed time and money to causes such as diabetes, running a charity tennis event at the club for the past two years. A total of $1040 was raised this year.
While coaching Coffs Harbour juniors has seen him guide a number of players to high national rankings, his ambition for the club's future is to foster greater development among junior players.
"I've taken a few players to national level, and my goal is now to take them to international level, such as junior ITF tournaments," he said.
Sousa's 10-year tenure as manager has not always been smooth sailing, but he looks back on that period as an important part of his life. "It's been extremely difficult, but at the same time it's been rewarding, and I've grown personally and professionally from the experience," he said.