“Presented to a family who has been outstanding in their involvement and promotion of tennis”

When Frankfort Junior Tennis Director Lauren Holder read that description of the USTA Kentucky Tennis Family of the Year Award, she knew just who to nominate.

This winter at the USTA Kentucky annual banquet Holder’s nominee, the Collett family of Frankfort, won the award.

Cate and Chris Collett and their three children, Henry, 20, Nancy, 18, and Palmer, 16, have been heavily involved in local tennis for years.

Cate played tennis at Western Hills, and her three children followed suit. Henry was going to play tennis at Murray State, but the school dropped its men’s tennis program. Henry is now a sophomore at Murray.

Nancy, a senior at WHHS, and Palmer, a sophomore, currently play for WHHS.

“I nominated them for a couple different reasons, one being they truly define the award title of Kentucky Tennis Family of the Year,” Holder said. “The entire family is involved with tennis, whether it’s playing, coaching, helping out with tournaments or organizing for a team.

“All three of the children have coached for the Frankfort Tennis Association. They love being out there helping with the kids, and the kids love having them as their coaches.”

Chris Collett, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, played high school tennis.

“I quit when I went in the military, and I didn’t start playing again until the kids started playing,” he said. “When I started hitting with the kids, I started playing again.

“In 2011, Henry went to Transylvania’s sports camp and did phenomenal at tennis. When he played it, they all got into it.”

“We just let them go their own way and see what worked,” Cate said about their children. “We never made them play.”

All three children gravitated to the sport, and they’re involved in other activities. Henry played soccer at Western Hills and is on two intramural soccer teams at Murray. Nancy is a member of the WHHS dance team.

Chris and Cate, who met while students at Murray State, will celebrate their 25th anniversary this month. While Chris was serving in the military the family lived in San Antonio three separate times, Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, Clarksville, Tennessee, Germany, Frankfort and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Now retired from the military, Chris is an emergency room physician’s assistant.

Cate taught elementary school physical education before her children were born. She returned to teaching when Palmer was in kindergarten and has been a substitute teacher since then.

The family moved to Frankfort for good when Henry was in kindergarten.

“Henry has always been involved in sports,” Cate said. “You don’t want to play Trivial Pursuit with Henry if there are sports questions.

“We started going to U of L to watch matches. I guess the players don’t see a lot of kids, and our kids were like 8, 10 and 12 years old, and they took an interest in the kids.

“The kids thought that was great. Austen Childs, who was an NCAA runner-up, asked if we were going to come see him play in nationals. Chris said, ‘If you make the finals, let me know and we’ll be there.’

“The phone rang one day and it was Austen saying he was in the finals. We packed up the car, drove all night and made it to the match (at the University of Georgia).

“I think the atmosphere of the sport got Nancy and Palmer’s interest.”

For the Collett parents, the sport has found a niche.

“I try to play at least once a week with a group,” Chris said. “It’s a fun game, and for me it’s more exercise than golf.”

“I feel I’ve been more of a chauffer,” Cate said, “getting them where they need to go.

“I played last summer in an adult clinic. Henry said I was terrible at the beginning, but then he left (for a summer job) and when he came back he said he was proud of how much I progressed.”

The family’s involvement in tennis involves more than playing the sport. The Colletts are also fixtures with the Frankfort Tennis Association.

“As the Frankfort Tennis Director, I find the Collett family extremely important to Frankfort tennis as a whole,” Holder said. “In Frankfort, we have the high school season, the summer junior tennis team season, the fall junior tennis team season and the winter clinic season.

“No matter the time of year, the Collett family is always willing to help make Frankfort tennis a successful program. A lot of times they say ‘Just let me know what you need,’ and whatever it might be, they find a way to help.”

That includes letting the organization use the indoor tennis court they have on their property.

“Noel Wise was the inspiration for our court,” Chris said. “When I started playing he had me come out and look at his indoor court. We built our own building, but the inspiration for our court was Noel Wise.”

The court has served several purposes for the Frankfort Tennis Association.

“We let the Frankfort Tennis Association kids use it,” Cate said. “At the Ben Moore Cup it started to rain, and it was about to rain out the tournament with two matches left.

“They finished the tournament at our court. It took longer, and there was no place for people to sit and watch, but they finished the tournament. We store equipment for the kids’ clinics in the winter.”

Henry and Palmer began playing for Western Hills when they were in the fifth grade, and Nancy started once she reached middle school.

Last year Henry helped with the Murray High School tennis team, working at practices. He and Nancy work for the Frankfort Tennis Association, giving lessons, while Palmer has volunteered with the organization.

“One thing I really like is with all three playing the same sport, it’s something all three can do together,” Cate said.

“I like the fact that although it’s a team sport you play individually, and you have to show responsibility. You learn good sportsmanship. There’s no official, so you have to make the calls on your own.

“Like any sport, I like them having a group to belong to. All three of them have enjoyed teaching people who came out for the team how to play. They like sharing tennis with people who don’t know how to play.

“I like it’s a sport boys and girls can play together, and that it’s a lifetime sport.”

And it’s one in which the family has made an indelible impact in the Frankfort community.

“Another reason why I nominated the Collett family is because they are extremely humble,” Holder said. “I wanted them to realize how important they really are to tennis in Frankfort. It wouldn’t be the same without them.”