Tennis comes full circle for Lauren Cotter Wilson

She would hit tennis balls for hours against the green wooden backboard that was attached to the back of the tennis court at Shreveport’s Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club.

As her older brother John sat courtside, a young Lauren Cotter would try to hit 50 in a row above the painted white line that symbolized the net.

“It would take me an hour-and-a-half to get 50 in a row,” she recalls all these years later. “Then we’d go for 100.”

When Lauren got to 100, the goal would be 150 – hours and hours of repetition. And always sitting courtside would be John Cotter.

That’s what Lauren thinks about now as she prepares her acceptance speech for her induction into the Louisiana Tennis Association Hall of Fame. On Dec. 2, The Shoptaugh Family, Harold “Rocky” Andry and Lauren Cotter Wilson will be honored as the 2022 LTA Hall of Fame inductees at a dinner at Baton Rouge’s Bocage Racquet Club.

It’s an honor Lauren knows would not be possible without the influence of her older brother, who passed away over the summer.

“I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say,” she says about her induction speech. “I’m overwhelmed by the honor. The timing of it couldn’t be more perfect.”

The prestigious honor comes just months after the passing of her brother and at a time in her life when tennis has come full circle.

“We’re enjoying the fruits of our labor,” Lauren says of she and husband Grady Wilson, the general manager and director of tennis at Pierremont Oaks.

Their son Cotter — a recent graduate of Ole Miss, where he played tennis — is now working alongside his father as the head of racket sports at Pierremont Oaks. I remember watching a young Cotter — later a Men’s City Singles Champion — hitting balls with his uncle John on those same courts where Lauren put in all that time when she was young.

It was time well spent.

In 1973, Lauren was No. 1 in Louisiana in both Girls’ 12 and 14 singles, ranked No. 1 in the state and the South in Girls’ 14 singles, No. 16 in the nation in Girls’ 14 singles; and No. 1 in the U.S. in Girls’ 14 doubles with Toni Moss of Houston.

At the age of 14, she won the Louisiana State Closed Girls’ 16 and 18 singles titles and the following year was selected to represent the state in the Seventeen Magazine Girls’ Junior Tennis Championships in Washington, D.C., in addition to winning the Girls’ 16 Singles at the Easter Bowl National Championship.

In 1977, Lauren was top-ranked in both the state and South in Girls’ 16 singles and No. 2 in the South in Girls’ 18 singles.

One of her proudest accomplishments, according to the Centenary College and Northwest Louisiana Hall of Fame member, is leading Captain Shreve to the team title at the National High School Tennis Championships in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979. Along with Stephanie Fess and Carol Boston, I was honored to be part of that team.

After playing for SMU from 1979-1981, Lauren returned to Shreveport to close out her college tennis career at Centenary and was the 1983 NAIA Collegiate Singles Champion.

“It’s pretty cool, the timing of all of this,” she says. “Pierremont Oaks, where we all grew up playing tennis, is now at an all-time high with memberships. Tennis is just booming.”

Funny thing, tennis wasn’t Lauren’s first choice. That was her mother’s idea.

“I was a swimmer,” she says. “I swam butterfly and back stroke because no one else wanted to swim those. But my mother thought swimming was making my shoulders too broad. So I started playing tennis.”

That decision turned out to be life-defining for the tennis champion.

“Tennis made us who we are,” Lauren says of all the people who were – and are – still part of her life. “We learned so much from the sport. We just had so much fun. We were all fortunate that our parents were able to provide us with such a great life.”

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HOLDING COURT: Lauren Cotter Wilson, shown in 1975, will be honored Dec. 2 as a 2022 Louisiana Tennis Association Hall of Fame member.