I was born in 1962 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. My parents are from Newfoundland, Canada.
I am in the middle of 5 kids. My father was a bank manager turned college business professor and administrator. My mother was a lifelong RN.
I grew up playing tennis summers only - no indoor courts in NS until later. All 5 of us kids played the summer junior tournament circuit and then high school and college tennis. I grew up playing every sport available - hockey, basketball, competitive badminton, football, soccer, track, and skiing.
I also competed in Piano, played Violin in an orchestra, and belonged to a large local competitive Boy Scout troop.
We moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, in high school. My father was getting a doctorate and teaching at UMass. In Amherst, my sisters played 1-2-3 for the high school tennis team! Something you don’t see every day!
I got to a top junior ranking in my province and then a national ranking in Canada. In the States, I got to #1 in New England in the Men’s Open division. In Florida, I got into the top 10 in Men’s Open. I’ve had some national rankings also in the US in Men’s Open division.
I Played #1 for my Div 2 college team all four years.
I played Satellite Circuit pro qualifiers for eight months in the US, Canada, Portugal, Poland (behind the Iron Curtain - past the Berlin Wall - quite an experience) and a month on the Challenger Circuit in Nigeria (where I lost 18 pounds in 30 days and experienced what playing in intense heat means)!! I qualified once in the States.
With those results, I was not quite able to secure a pro world ranking, but at the end of my short pro stint, I beat a player with a world ranking of around 100 ATP.
TEACHING & TRAINING
Starting in my late teens, I taught for Dr. Alex Mayer in NJ. He was a genius - he coached his two sons to the top 10 in the world rankings, and they had opposite personalities and playing styles! He was extremely demanding!! But he gave us 15 mins a week of private attention to our games (my first private lessons - worth their weight in gold!! - even just 15 mins of intense focus was brilliant)
In Vermont and Texas, I worked for and got to hit with Australian and multiple grand slam champion John Newcombe.
In Florida, north of Miami, I worked for another Aussie, multiple grand slam champ Fred Stolle.
I watched Fred coach Mary Jo Fernandez and other greats, or soon-to-be greats, and even played some doubles with Fred and the great Roy Emerson a few times, inviting an excited guest to be our 4th. McEnroe, Connors, Nastase, Gerulaitis, and other world-class players all lived nearby and played at this club.
After working in Miami (Aventura), I moved to the west coast of Florida to train for the circuit.
I took a break from teaching and trained (starting early mornings before the sun came up) with Billy Stearns at his academy, filled with many top young US juniors. I next tried out and secured a spot with Equadorian Davis Cup coach Colon Nunez and his very high-level pro group. Colon was coaching future French Open champ Andres Gomez who was ranked # 5 in the world at the time.
For half a year: I practiced 5 hours a day with top world-ranked players. With my Florida ranking, I was the lowest-ranked player there, and being around true professionals, day after day, was a great experience. I am forever grateful to Colon and his family for being such wonderful hosts. For six months: I hit with these players daily, soaking up their rhythm and how they approached their craft. All were very hard-working and down-to-earth.
Back in Springfield Ma I was on the board and taught for a local inner-city program.
In Charlestown, Ma., I took the Springfield program further by mentoring and taking any deserving, highly motivated players to tournaments.
I coached the MIT Men's Tennis Team for a couple of seasons.
For a decade and a half after coaching the MIT team, I taught tennis on campus to undergrads, grads from all over the world, professors, tennis-mad visitors, and the local community. Tennis is hugely popular at MIT!
ACCOUNTANT ... & MANY OTHER JOBS
My degree from American International College was in Accounting and Information Systems (computers). I went to work for KPMG as an accountant in Springfield Ma for several years - before moving to Aventura, Florida, to work for Stolle.
After the short stint on the pro circuit, I again worked for a CPA firm, this time for PMN in Boston Ma., I spent three years there before working in management for a restaurant chain that was about to get going and then had aspirations to go national.
I grew up working in restaurants. Because this was a start-up, we all worked hands-on a few times for 24 hours straight. I helped open 3 locations before the investors decided the model was not working. Throughout my teens, I worked in the kitchen in a high-end Chinese restaurant, a steak house, and Wendy’s.
During college, I worked the front desk, taught kids, and strung racquets at a 12-court indoor tennis club with a health club and restaurant.
Nearby I also worked for a local sports store stringing hundreds and hundreds of racquets !! Think - small crowded back room - no air conditioning during the summer! Good training for long-grinding matches out there in the heat. I also worked for a clay court and indoor club, maintaining the clay courts for the summer.
MIT IS NOT JUST FOR ENGINEERS
As mentioned above, I have been coaching and teaching tennis at MIT. I coached the team there for a bit but spent the rest of my time teaching tennis to undergrads, grad students from all over the world, professors, Alumni, and some local players who came to the campus to play. The MIT environment attracts very motivated and creative people.
While working with a couple of 80-year-olds and some 70-year-old tennis players, my thinking about aging changed from what I initially believed. These players came to me wanting to learn the modern game with increased power, spin, and a differently-shaped swing. They also wanted to become better athletes with more agility, stamina and heightened reaction time. They wanted some of what they were seeing on TV !! We all do!- I know I do.
WE ARE IN A NEW ERA
In years past, these guys and gals would all be happy only playing doubles. Now they want to keep pushing and also play lots of singles. I took one of my students - a BU professor in his early 80s to his first tournament. We drove up to Killington Vt to play on their red clay - it was brilliant - he lost his match but loved it. He was a boxer growing up and said it was an absolute thrill to be back competing in athletics.
Working with my “mature“ students, I started by very gradually changing their strokes and feeding them some of the latest info about off-court training as well. I was hoping to improve their flatter old-school strokes but not hoping for too much.
Some were laid back and would practice what I gave them a few times a week, but a few were also very excited and would show up for several hours and more daily and work at it.
WHAT I BEGAN TO SEE WAS AMAZING
They all improved and were picking up the modern game!! The ones who practiced the most picked it up quicker. They were having as much success as the 20-somethings at picking up new skills. But I had to be careful what I recommended. One day I walked into the free weight lifting area over at the MIT sports fitness center, and one of my 82-year-old students was doing Barbell squats with a decent amount of weight on the bar, and another 80-year-old out in the other room doing barbell bench press. Initially, it was a bit of a shock, but they appeared to be working safely and enjoying it.
I ran into one of the wives of a player while I was walking through campus one day, and she said that she and her husband had been running the stairs a few days a week at the sports center and thanked me for the recommendation!! - Ha! I was thinking - oh man! Maybe I better watch what I say and what they are doing.
But it was an AHA moment for sure.
These older athletes were having a blast and were just as excited to improve as the varsity team players - sometimes even more!! They were eventually able to do whatever reasonable tasks you put forth. One thing I noticed - which would seem obvious, was that for these older athletes - footwork and agility improvement took a lot more work, and improvements were slower versus improving their strokes. Their movement and reaction were still improving, but it does take a lot more repetition and dedication to make gains here as you get older. Anyone willing to put a consistent effort in can upgrade their physical game. From my experiments and watching a few outliers in other sports, I think we’ll see some amazing gains in the athleticism of older athletes in the coming decades. It will take a few over 60 athletes who are off-the-charts dedicated, immensely curious, and not afraid to push the boundaries to show what is possible.
EXTRAORDINARY PRACTICE PAYS-OFF
Another one of my students at MIT helped reset my thinking about different ways of Improving performance. I had taught a Japanese diplomat who had served in Boston for a couple of years. He and his family had rented a house with a garage nearby. He wanted to improve his tennis. He came to me as an advanced beginner. We went through all the basics, and he was an average athlete, nothing extraordinary, just a normal person. We would meet once a week for a one-hour lesson, but his progress was not so normal. It was extraordinary!
Weekly he would show up quite a bit better than the previous week. I asked him if he was playing between lessons, and he said no. I was scratching my head. I mean, these lessons work, but usually, progress is pretty slow unless a player is coming to use the ball machine or hitting with friends a few other times a week. I was scratching my head, thinking maybe he has some special gift for retention. Anyway, on we went, week after week, always with unusual weekly gains. During the lesson, he was extremely attentive, which was great. I knew I was a decent instructor but not this good - definitely not a miracle worker.
Several months into our training, he invited me to a function at the Japanese consulate (I think) - where I had a chance to meet and chat with his wife. She said he enjoyed the lessons, and I told her that her husband's progress was a bit special. She told me that when he returned home, he would write extensively in a tennis notebook everything that went on in that lesson and what he should be thinking about and practicing. Then the next day, he would go out to the garage and go through the entire tennis lesson again, meticulously reviewing each stroke over and over. I cannot remember if she told me how often he did this. But I seem to recall it was a few times between lessons. In this country, we all know that practice is helpful and works. But my Japanese student had taken it to the next level. It was a different mindset and discipline, and it worked tremendously well.
Just like shadow boxing - doing well-executed formwork and footwork rehearsal and repetitions changes everything. This experience gave me new insights into just how valuable it could be. I now knew I could improve anywhere, anytime - no court needed !! No racquet is required for this, although holding one helps. If you did more reps - you improved more. I do not see a limit - I still do not.
Years ago, the legendary wrestling Olympic Champion and super successful college coach, Dan Gable, was asked: "What was the most important element needed for success as a wrestler or athlete?" His reply was, "IMAGINATION." He is right on.
SO, WHY PLAY AGAIN - NOW?
I have always been curious about training and performance on or off the court. As I have aged, my curiosity has also grown. I want to know where the actual limits are for an older athlete. For the next four years, I want to be the most attentive, relentless, and creative student I have ever had! Since my teens - except for brief periods - I have been 100% focused on other players' games.
I would love to take everything I have learned coaching these players and studying the great trainers and champs and apply it all to an older athlete who:
-Loves the sport of tennis!
-Never gets enough of the training!
-Loves to compete!
-Is willing (initially) to lose a bunch of matches but keep tweaking.
-Losing better and better.
-Eventually, losing less and less!
I want to be that student!!
We’ll see whether it’s possible to turn one’s clock back for a while - or even slow it down.
Maybe something truly remarkable will happen, and we’ll all be hugely entertained and motivated.
Not one expert in the world of sports or physiology knows what this generation of 60-year-olds is capable of - that’s what’s so inviting! This field is a new territory - not fully explored.
But, I’ve been seeing intriguing gradual improvements, which gives me hope for positive results.
I’ll eventually share everything that works.
There’s no model here, so it’s all about daily tweaking.
An older player needs to train slightly differently than the decades younger teens and 20-somethings. It’s close but different.
And how much will life experience count??
All the playing, coaching, teaching, working, and studying - what factor will it play?
Taking all of my experience and knowledge to formulate a training regimen for a sixty-year-old person who would like to attain a pro level is very exciting! Potentially life/world changing!
Ok- I’ll see you at (or on) the courts, maybe even across the net!!?