Sterling’s new racquet sports director to grow tennis, pickleball play

Chris Dudley is the new racquet sports director and head tennis professional at Westwood Tennis Center

Chris Dudley, Sterling Park District's new Racquetball Sports Director and Head Tennis Professional at Westwood Tennis Center, is posing in front of a green "May is National Tennis Month" sign.

STERLING – The Sterling Park District’s got a new pro on the block.

Chris Dudley is the new racquet sports director and head tennis professional at the Westwood Tennis Center. He has more than 40 years of tennis experience, is a U.S. Professional Tennis Association Elite Professional and is USPTA pickleball certified.

The U.S. Professional Tennis Association is a leader in tennis teacher certification and professional development in the sport. The association offers four levels of membership, which includes an on-court liability insurance plan and other benefits.

As an elite professional, Dudley is a level three. To earn this distinction, an individual must already be a level two member, pass a written exam and prove ability in a variety of on-court tasks.

“I think the average tennis player at a club has no idea how much work went into the coach’s certification, and so I’ve always been super proud of it,” he said.

Originally from Maryland, Dudley started playing tennis at 12 years old, but it wasn’t until he began playing at the collegiate level that he really fell in love with it. At Concordia College in New York, a school that has since closed, Dudley was a student in the 1980s coached by a “local legend” that “amassed over 700 team wins in his 40 years” at the college, he said in an interview with Shaw Local.

While in college, he helped run junior tennis clinics for $10 an hour, which was “like getting rich in the ‘80s,” he said.

After graduating, Dudley worked as a schoolteacher while coaching tennis off and on. He left teaching and “chased corporate America” for almost 20 years before rediscovering tennis “like it was a rekindled love,” he said.

He landed in Shreveport, Louisiana, along with his wife, Amy, where they worked side by side as co-directors of the Querbes Tennis Center. During their tenure there, the facility earned a USTA Outstanding Facility Award in 2022, according to an article published by the U.S. Tennis Association.

At the Querbes Tennis Center, Amy ran all the behind-the-scenes business operations while Chris was the face of the company, coaching group and private lessons. It became “a bit of a grind,” and the two were ready for a change, Chris said.

In January, the two were given an in-person tour of all three Westwood buildings. The tennis center, in Building 2, features four indoor tennis courts – complete with upward-facing lighting and infrared tube heating systems – along with six outdoor courts. Building 3 houses six indoor pickleball courts along with four convertible basketball and volleyball courts, an indoor turf baseball field and two indoor batting cages.

Building 1, the “nerve center” of Westwood, as Chris described it, includes a racquetball/wallyball court, 35,000 square feet of fitness equipment, a wellness center, two NBA-sized wooden basketball courts, a 200-meter indoor track and an indoor convertible soccer and football field.

It’s safe to say they were sufficiently wowed. They were shocked by how seemingly “no expense was spared in a town this small,” Chris said.

Aside from the facilities, the two were drawn in by Sterling’s geographical location. Amy had always wanted to move north, and Chris missed experiencing each season. Living in Sterling, they are now a short drive away from family in Wisconsin and friends who live in St. Louis.

As Sterling Park District’s racquet sports director, which is a newly created position, Chris oversees just that: all sports with a racquet. The title puts tennis, racquetball and pickleball underneath one big umbrella. His responsibilities include maintaining those facilities, specifically the tennis and pickleball courts; conducting group and private lessons; and various management tasks.

“Ultimately, my role is to grow both [tennis and pickleball] sports,” Chris said.

His first official day at Westwood was April 1. During the first couple of weeks, the focus was mainly on cleanliness, organization and customer service. He also has started coaching a handful of high school and college tennis players.

As a short-term goal, Chris is working toward getting Westwood Tennis Center recognized as a USTA premier facility.

Heading into the summer, Chris plans to set up group, private group and individual pickleball classes. Additionally, he is hosting two free events to celebrate National Tennis Month.

Tennis for Kids will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the Westwood Tennis Center, Building 2, 1900 Westwood Drive, Sterling. Hit to Be Fit Day will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Westwood Tennis Center, Building 2. Registration is free, and forms are available at the Westwood Tennis Center or online at

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Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.