Sunday, October 2, 2011

REFLECTIONS: From humble beginnings, the sky is the limit

Recently, professional tennis instructor and podcaster Ian Westermann of the Essential Tennis podcast interviewed former U.S. tour player Todd Martin–a player who had been ranked as high as number four in the world when playing on the pro tour in the 90's. This ranking reflects his accomplishments of 8 career singles titles and five career doubles titles. In addition, he reached the finals at the Australian and U.S. Opens in 1994 and 1999 respectively and was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in both 1994 and 96. He continues to play on the Champions Tour with many of the other greats from the last few decades.
   We have seen many quality U.S. players that have achieved much in the world of tennis. Just take a look at a roster that includes such names as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, and Jim Courier. Most of us would consider them to be special cases with silver-spoon beginnings at the best tennis clubs and in the best tennis programs money can buy. But in Todd Martin, we hear a different story. During his interview, when asked about how he got started in tennis, he mentions that his parents went to the local park tennis courts to play as recreational players. At age 5, his father cut a wooden racquet down to his size and let him hit what Martin referred to as "batting practice" on the courts. Martin continues in his story to mention "...before long, I was doing the once-a-week on the weekend park lessons..." 
   Now you might imagine that at this point in the interview a huge smile covered my face. Here was child who got his humble start on a tennis court with both his parents and public park lessons in his local Ohio community. This is exactly the kind of service I have been providing to recreation programs in Southern New Jersey for the last 30 years. I have introduced hundreds of kids, and their parents, to the joys of tennis. Low barrier to entry is key, and low-cost recreational programs are the doorway. There needs to be someone that will ignite a child's interest at a young age. I'm proud to have been one of those people, and I continue to do so every Spring, Summer, and Fall.
   So I ask you...what will your child do with the gift of tennis? As you can see from Todd  Martin, the sky is the limit.

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