If you come to me and have aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, I will educate you on the process, but in fact, will probably also end up talking you out of it. If you want to play on the Tour, you better be willing to make a huge sacrifice of training, practice and diet and also have a bottomless pit of money.
I am very cynical when someone talks to me about such lofty goals. The reason why is because most people do not realize what superhuman athletes the pros are and how talented you have to be. There is something these players have that the average person does not possess. I live in admiration of these superhuman athletes that perform at such a high level. These players have skills that are incomprehensible to the average tennis player, and I think most aspiring tennis players and families do not realize that.
My years of teaching and coaching tennis have taught me some important things. Having been recently appointed as interim men's and women' tennis coach at a college within the SUNY Schools System, I discovered a very interesting statistic: The GPAs of the tennis players on the average college team in all Divisions were some of the highest of the campus athletes. That information further confirmed what I'd want to have as part of my coaching philosophy. I am happier as a tennis coach teaching students life skills using the tennis court as my arena. I prefer having my little influence in my “tennis classroom,” teaching skills that can contribute to a more fulfilling life to my students, rather than trying to foster potential false hopes of a great life on the Tour.
For me, what's great is that an overwhelming majority of students who take up the game of tennis are looking for a lifelong skill and to further enrich their lives. I know that when a young student comes to me and takes up the game of tennis, they want a skill that will teach them an ability that also augments the quality of their life. Beyond the technical skill of learning a forehand or a backhand, a new tennis player can learn life skills such as determination, the ups and downs of tennis matches can be equated to life's ups and downs. The cerebral aspect of tennis exercises parts of the brain that have a ripple effect that can possibly help a student learn in the classroom, workplace and in life which always seems to throw a curve at us all from time to time.
So, before you dreamers out there think about becoming a touring pro, just know what you're getting in to. Becoming a touring pro is more difficult than winning the lottery. Know what it takes to make what you want in life to happen and then set goals in life, the classroom and on the tennis court and make them happen.
Lonnie Mitchel is head men’s and women’s tennis coach at SUNY Oneonta. Lonnie was named an assistant coach to Team USA for the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel for the Grand Master Tennis Division. Lonnie may be reached by phone at (516) 414-7202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.