Karen Rembert doesn’t have a traditional tennis story. She grew up in Bermuda and it was there that her dad met her mom and taught her how to play tennis. During those lessons, when Karen was a toddler, they would tie her to the net post and bribe her with hitting tennis balls if she behaved. “Probably not okay in today's society,” Karen says about the experience, but it worked for her!
Karen’s family moved to Raleigh when her father was hired as the Director of Tennis at North Hills Club. She loved spending every waking moment on the courts and in the pool. However, even though she practically grew up on the court, Karen considers herself a late bloomer. Her winning ways started in high school. While at Cardinal Gibbons High School, she won the 1986 North Carolina State Championships in singles and doubles. She then went on to play #1 doubles and #2 Singles at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina (in the NAIA division).
A few years after college, at age 24, Karen became the Tennis Director at North Hills Club, after 18 months at Raleigh Racquet Club. When she first started at North Hills, there were around 400 members at the club but by the time she left, in 2005, there were more than 700. Karen is credited with creating a high-level junior program there and she also expanded the number of adult league teams based out of the club.
“One of the things I am most proud of is starting the 3.0 and 2.5 adult tennis in Raleigh,” says Karen of her time at North Hills Club. “In the 1990s, players were either 3.5 or a beginner. It was very hard to break into league play. We started with two teams and it developed quickly into one of the largest participation levels. I will always be proud of building North Hills Club into one of the best programs in the South.”
“Karen has been a force for tennis in the Raleigh area for many years. Her positive personality, leadership, and excellent skills make her not only a special tennis professional but a wonderful ambassador for the sport,” says Paula Hale, former USTA Southern Section president, of Karen and her impact on tennis in Raleigh.
Karen stayed at North Hills for 13 years until she and her family moved to Costa Rica. After two years there, Karen asked her husband to build her tennis courts, which they then established into The Club at Coco Bay, a resort that includes a fitness center, yoga pavilion, pool, and tennis courts. To this day, she spends several months a year in Costa Rica attending to the club.
When Karen and her family moved back to Raleigh, she was fortunate to be able to teach again at the Raleigh Racquet Club, where she is currently on staff. Karen credits her father and Kelly Gaines as instrumental in developing her into the tennis pro she is today. Karen’s first job, at 16, was working for Kelly, now Executive Director of the North Carolina Tennis Association. Her father was a tremendous role model. She says that her dad taught her patience and giving it her all during every lesson she took.
“Karen is probably best known for her bright smile, outgoing personality, and infectious positive attitude,” says Bill Edwards, former RTA President about Karen. “And to hundreds of tennis players in Raleigh, Karen is the reason they learned to play and still love the game to this day. When Karen steps on the court, regardless if she's playing competitively, teaching lessons, or just having fun, her passion and enthusiasm for tennis and encouragement for others always come with her. She has been and continues to be a vital part of tennis’ success in Raleigh.”
“Tennis has given me almost everything that I cherish dearly in my life, from meeting my husband in the training room at Presbyterian College to winning the NC Mother-Daughter State Championships with my mom,” says Karen about how tennis has changed her life. “It also gave me a career in which I developed tennis players and made close friendships with people of all ages. I now love traveling the country playing National tournaments with my closest friends and meeting new people.”
So what does Karen love about tennis?
“I love so many things about tennis including the obvious health benefits but it's always about the people for me. I've been so fortunate to teach and meet incredible people who have made a lasting impact on my life. For me, I get just as much of a thrill watching my 2.5 adults win their first match as watching one of my juniors win a National title.”