“My first memories are on a tennis court, it makes me feel good, I feel at home out there.” said Liana McCormack, one of Florida’s women tennis leaders making a difference in the St. John’s community.
Liana was always around tennis as a child, as her father was a director at a facility, and when she was about six, she started hitting the tennis ball. Her father was the catalyst for her tennis career, not only did he serve as her dad, but he was Liana’s trainer, who motivated her to be the best she could be.
“He showed me the game of tennis, pushed me really hard, and he wanted me to be in the top-100 in the world,” Liana said. Her talent took her a very long way in her playing career, achieving numerous accolades in high school and earning a scholarship to play at the University of Illinois.
Throughout her career she reached No. 8 in the state of Florida and qualified for Nationals a couple of times. After wrapping up her college career, Liana decided she wanted to take a break from the sport, especially the competitive aspect of it, as it was really draining. However, when she came back to tennis, it was easily the best decision she’s ever made.
“There was so much pressure tied to it [competitive tennis], but this second time around, when I was able to come back for myself, made me realize that I absolutely love this game,” she said. “I know a lot about it, and it brings me so much joy and happiness to not have to perform, but be able to direct, coach, and just be around it.”
Today, Liana is the Director of Tennis at Beachwalk Club in St. Johns, Florida. Beachwalk is always full of players, and that brings Liana so much joy. From Adult League teams to programming for all ages, Liana is leading the charge to make sure that everyone in St. John’s has a chance to experience tennis, saying “this is the best job I have ever had.”
She also coaches tennis at Beachside High School for the Boys’ and Girl’s teams, who is in its inaugural season. Scott Miller, the high school tennis coach at Bartram told Liana about the tennis team, that they were looking for a coach, and that she would be the perfect fit thanks to her energy, knowledge, and passion for the game.
So, she made the easy decision to start coaching these kids and Liana couldn’t be happier to be out there helping them improve their game. “We get paid, but you put a lot more time into it than you get paid for,” she said. “It’s really, really fun, I absolutely love them. I think they’re really fun, excited, enthusiastic, and well mannered.”
What motivates you to work in tennis
Being a psychology major, Liana finds a special bond by listening to people’s stories, learning where they come from, and trying to make their days brighter. “That’s what coaching is to me, using tennis as a sport, but getting to coach people in life about adversity, facing the ups and downs, and digging deeper about overcoming personal objection you have. It’s a way for me to get in touch with people.”
Waking up every day and being able to go to work in tennis has become a dream come true for Liana. “Tennis is my vehicle to get to those people, and to really love those people individually, because I really think that’s what the sport can do if you are talented in it. So, you can try to reach people like teachers reach people.”
How are times changing for Women to get more involved in tennis leadership roles
“I believe there are definitely roadblocks for females, stereotypes of not being able to be leaders and in positions of leaderships or directors.”
Being a woman coach and leader in tennis isn’t as easy as it seems, and Liana’s perseverance on and off the court has helped put her in the positions she’s in today. “Twenty years ago, if I would have tried to get into tennis, I know it would’ve been hard, because it’s much harder for women in my area,” she said. “Out of the 20 clubs that I could pick in Northeast Florida, maybe two of them have females. It’s an extremely hard industry for women.”
While Liana says it’s hard for women to get involved in leadership roles, she believes times are changing dramatically for women. “Today I’m seeing so many women, younger women, enter and treat tennis seriously, more like a professional business instead of a part time job,” she said. “I think women are really good for this field.”
What is your message of unity
“One of the things I love about sports and tennis is that it’s the great leveler,” she said. Sports bring people together, where everyone can forget about their daily struggles or distractions. “When you step on a tennis court or any sport field, none of that matter, and that’s one of my favorite things.”
Many people go through hard times, but sports can heal those wounds and fill those holes in your daily life. “There are some other clubs that have stereotypical ‘County Club’ feels but I really feel that we [Beachwalk] is an all-inclusive club,” she said. “I love that about tennis and I think sports in general are one of the great places where you can have that idea of unity.”