She was once the Wisconsin state tennis champion, focused on mastering her skills, but now Tessa Lang prefers helping members at The Cliffs learn about the game. “I love getting to know the members on a personal level,” says Lang, who became director of tennis at The Cliffs in 2018 after working at Walnut Cove. “It’s awesome to feel how excited the members are about tennis, because that’s what I’m feeling, too. It’s just positive energy.”
Lang’s primary goal in her new role is to create programming that is inclusive for all members, whether they play every week, are taking up the sport after a hiatus, or even if they have never picked up a racket. “I’ve had people who have never played before. But after a few months, they are out there playing full sets and feeling really good about their game,” she says.
Coming up with creative events is one of Lang’s favorite aspects of the job, so programming is extensive, with a Wimbledon Whites event (think wooden rackets, tennis whites, and Breakfast at Wimbledon refreshments), a tennis camp for kids, and an interclub event that will bring members of The Cliffs together at different host venues across the communities. “That’s a huge advantage at The Cliffs. Every member gets to go to all of the great facilities, and they are all so different and so beautiful,” she says.
Five of the seven communities within The Cliffs have tennis courts, with 22 courts overall, including 16 Har-Tru courts, four hard courts, and two ClayTech courts, which sport an all-weather clay surface that facilitates year-round play. With hundreds of interested players, The Cliffs continues to invest in and upgrade the tennis facilities. Last year, Valley resurfaced four courts and gave two a laser lift, a process that relevels the court to maintain the ideal playing surface. The Cliffs at Walnut Cove is next in line for a full resurfacing treatment.
Lang grew up in Wisconsin, and after her tenure as high school state champion, went on to play at Iowa State University, where she played No. 1 doubles and No. 2 and 3 singles. She holds the Iowa State school record for most doubles wins in a season.
After earning a degree in kinesiology and health, Lang became a tennis pro through Peter Burwash International, a tennis club and resort management company, which placed her at The Cliffs in 2014. She loved the location, but couldn’t pass up the chance to become the first female tennis professional at the Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club, where she had students ranging in age from three to 78.
After almost a year in Japan, Tessa was named assistant coach at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, before returning to Walnut Cove in 2017 and being named director last year. “I’m based out of The Cliffs Valley, but now I’m everywhere,” she says. She typically visits two or three communities per day, which she loves:
“I’m a mountain girl, and they are all so beautiful.”
While Lang relished competition, she has found even more satisfaction in putting aside her competitive nature to help others capture the joy of the sport. She also appreciates the challenges and rewards of working with the same members for longer periods of time. “With resort tennis, you might do the same things over and over because you won’t see the same person for at least a year,” she says. “This is more rewarding. I love being creative and thinking outside the box, and I love getting to know members and really helping them develop their game.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.