Theresa Borczon believed in doing the things that brought her the most joy and there was no pastime that did that more for her than the game of tennis.
Her son Ryan, leader of player services at the National Bank Open and manager of the Tennis Professionals Association at Tennis Canada, still remembers the first time he bested his mother in a match during one of his many childhood battles with her at their summer cottage. Beaming with pride at his accomplishment, there was no one more thrilled at the victory than his mother.
“She got me into (tennis) at a young age and played with me for days and hours on end,” remembers Ryan. “She would do small fun things to be competitive with me and paid me a dollar when I beat her or got a game off her. I think I was 13 or 14 when I started beating her consistently. That’s when (my parents) put me into better programs with better coaches. I just fell in love with the sport because I had that connection with my mom.”
Terry peacefully passed away on June 8 after a long battle with cancer. Her zest for life was expressed through her love for the game and she transferred that passion onto the people she loved. She began playing as a teenager, competing at events across Ontario, and went on to play for the University of Toronto varsity team. Her passion for the game continued as an instructor, and a member of the Cricket Club and as an official.
Her love of education led her to work for the Toronto Catholic District School Board as a teacher, consultant, Vice-Principal and Principal. After she left teaching, she made a great impact on students and colleagues through the Teacher Education Program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
Ryan went on to become a high-performance athlete, training and competing on the tutelage of Casey Curtis for years before transitioning into the sport management side of things. He’s worked with Tennis Canada for the past 11 years. Formerly an Assistant Tennis Professional at the Boulevard Club in Toronto and the Chief of Tennis at Club Med’s Bahamas resort, he says he owes his career to his mother. Terry also shared her love for the sport with her husband Walter and daughter Erin.
Walter knew nothing about tennis until Terry took him out to hit the ball one day shortly after the couple was married in 1974. He started taking lessons at various clinics and her passion for the game became one of their passions as a couple.
“We were very fortunate to spend a lot of time together,” said Walter. “It wasn’t like I’d go off and do my sports and she’d go off and do her own thing, we would do things together. Whether we were at the cottage or whether we were down south, we’d be playing tennis. That was the beauty of it. It was an activity that brought us together and kept us together.”
After retiring, Terry became a certified linesperson and worked several tournaments including the National Bank Open (formerly Rogers Cup). Enjoying the event while serving in their respective roles, the family continued to bond over the sport.
“My wife would go out there and she would do the line calls and our son would come down from his office and watch some of the tournament,” recalled Walter. “I’d be in the stands watching too. So that kept us going. It was just another way of keeping (the sport) in the family.”
“She was so proud when she became a line umpire and got to know a lot of the officials in the tennis community,” said Ryan. “It was cool for her to see me in action throughout the event.”
Daughter Erin enjoys watching tennis but never developed a love for playing the game in the way that her father and brother did. Her passion was for music. Playing the piano, the French horn, guitar and other instruments, some of her earliest memories were watching her mother play the piano. Whether learning one of her favourite songs or a popular television theme, her love for the music was palpable.
“She really enjoyed it,” said Erin. “She didn’t do it very often because life was busy, but every once in a while, she would just sit down and play, and it made her happy.”
Erin’s musical giftings were clear early on and like Terry did for Ryan in tennis, she found ways to help her daughter cultivate her passion and turn it into a career. Encouraged by Terry, Erin became a music therapist and now works with World War II veterans at Sunnybrook hospital.
“She always guided us to find jobs where we could continue to pursue our passion and I think it’s pretty remarkable that it’s worked out for both of us,” said Erin, a married mother of two. “I’m still a practicing music therapist and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I look at what my brother has been able to do with tennis, both on a player level and also in his work for Tennis Canada. It really has come full circle I think.”
The theme of Terry’s life was using the things she loved as tools to connect, build relationships and inspire others, the family says. In memory and as a special tribute to Terry, a fund has been set up through Tennis Canada in support of the Girls. Set. Match. initiative.
The project was launched by Tennis Canada to support new opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet and become life-long participants in the sport. Though Terry has passed on, her memory lives on through the lives of her family members and the many she’s touched and will continue to impact.
“I just try to be wonderful as much as I can to everybody,” said Ryan. “I just try to be that person that she was.”