Tennis

Charlottetown newcomers find community on the tennis court

With clear skies and the sun beaming down, Mohamed Eldeeb is glad to finally be enjoying warmer weather after a long winter.

This will be Eldeeb’s second summer on P.E.I. He’s planning to make the most of it, in part by spending time playing tennis at the Victoria Park courts in Charlottetown. 

“For myself, it’s better than football or other kind of tough games. And I can play tennis up till I’m 60 or 70.”

Eldeeb used to play tennis in Egypt, but life got busy and he stopped playing. A year after moving to P.E.I., he’s picking up a racket again and plans to join the Charlottetown Tennis Club for the summer season.

He is one of a growing number of new immigrants joining the club, which is aiming to grow, in large part, by appealing to newcomers.

Attracting new members

In recent years, the club has made an effort to draw from the immigrant community. For four years now, it has hosted events in partnership with the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada. 

“Local people know about the club, most of them, at least the people who are interested in playing. So it’s hard to grow only with local people,” said club president Torsten Kutterer.

The Charlottetown Tennis Club hosts events to introduce newcomers to the sport. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

An immigrant himself, Kutterer took up tennis after moving to P.E.I. five years ago from Germany.

“I arrived here in April and I started to play tennis in June, because one of my new friends — a newcomer as well — talked me into playing.

“And he said ‘Oh, I have two rackets. Come on, let’s go to Victoria Park and play.’ And that’s how I started, and I loved it.”

He said the idea to host immigrant-focused events was inspired by his own experience.

Charlottetown Tennis Club president Torsten Kutterer says playing tennis helped him meet new people when he moved to P.E.I. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The events organized by the tennis club offer a chance for experienced tennis players, like Eldeeb, to get to know the club and meet new people. There’s also the chance for complete novices to learn the basics. 

Kutterer said the events have succeeded in attracting new members.

He said the club had about 150 members in 2018, up from about 120 the previous year. He attributes much of that growth to newcomers.

Making new friends

Kutterer said the club’s efforts to reach out to immigrants is about more than just the sport. 

“It’s not only about the tennis, it’s also about the social part. And that’s really important, especially for newcomers.”

When he was new to the Island, he said taking up tennis was a big part of how he made friends. 

Samanta Figueira learned some tennis basics at an event hosted by the Charlottetown Tennis Club and the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

At a family event for newcomers on Saturday, many who were there said the social aspect was a big part of the appeal.

“This kind of event is very important to help us to settle and to find people like us that comes from another country and are here to make P.E.I. our home,” said Samanta Figueira, who moved to P.E.I. from Brazil in 2017. 

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