The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning has announced the addition of its new executive director of tennis, Rick Ferman, a long-time and well-respected tennis coach.
“We have a responsibility to the tennis community in the New York City-area, and our goal is to implement the most outstanding program for all ages possible,” Ferman said of his new role. “Youth tennis is our main mission, so that is where we will focus first and strongest, but in line with our mission at Cary Leeds, we will welcome people from all backgrounds and all skill levels with dynamite programming that we are working on right now.”
Ferman comes to Cary Leeds after many years in the tennis industry, initially teaching and running clubs in the Midwest Section, primarily in Michigan. As a junior player, the Hamtramck, Mich. native spent a lot of time at the Jean Hoxie Tennis Camp, which helped spark his interest and his foundation in teaching.
He completed his undergraduate degree in education while playing on the Michigan State Tennis Team, and taught as a graduate assistant while completing his masters in Intramural Sports & Recreative Services.
“When I finished, the facility I was working at in Okemos, Mich.—then called the Lansing Tennis Club—offered me the top teaching job,” said Ferman. “We were able to increase participation, primarily focusing on junior competitive tennis, but we had a full range and continuum of tennis programs. Eight years later, I formed a partnership and purchased a club on the north side of town, and became the managing partner of Court One Athletic Clubs.”
The Club would be named the USTA National Organization of the Year for programming efforts and contributions to tennis in 1991, and with the success, his partnership purchased the club in Lansing where he got his start.
“My undergraduate degree is in education, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoyed teaching tennis,” said Ferman, who would go on to coach Todd Martin, and more recently, other top players from the USTA Eastern Section. “But what was a bit of a surprise was that the commercial end of teaching tennis, as opposed to teaching in a public school, was very attractive to me, especially with my tennis background.”
Not exactly thrilled with the way things were going in an overall tennis standpoint, Ferman became outspoken about it, and became active within the USTA hierarchy, eventually serving as vice president of the USTA Board of Directors. The following year, the Board selected him as executive director and chief operating officer of the USTA.
“I spent seven years in that role, which wasn’t anything like teaching tennis. It was very challenging, but I learned an awful lot,” said Ferman. “I think we had an impact on many of the initiatives that the USTA was pursuing in the late-90s and early-2000s, including opening up Arthur Ashe Stadium in 1997. That was very time-consuming. But I learned a lot there and we were able to squeeze out a budget for what is now the High-Performance Continuing Education Program for high-performance coaches; we launched that with Nick Saviano as the initial director. It was really fun. Tennis has been really good to me. It gave me an opportunity to see the whole country and travel internationally, and see what tennis looks like through a different prism. It was the only job I ever had that didn’t involve hands-on teaching. If there was a downside, that was it. Teaching, especially working with kids, is near and dear to me and very rewarding, so I did miss that. But we got a lot of good things done in my time there.”
Ferman now brings his decades-worth of experience to the Cary Leeds Center, whose values and mission are the same as his. He was part of the National Junior Tennis League Chapter in Lansing, Mich., as well as the co-founder of the Todd Martin Development Fund, a non-profit organization that has stressed education and leadership for 20-plus years.
“I have a long background in the concept of using tennis to teach life skills and impact the lives of lots of people, and it really started when I was a junior player in Hamtramck, a very blue-collar community,” said Ferman. “When I got older and a little more mature, I realized how important tennis had been to me, and it was due in large part because other people had taken the time to make those opportunities available to me. From all that tennis has given me over the years, I see now as my time to give back for the benefit of others.”
That background makes him a perfect fit to head up the tennis programs at Cary Leeds.
“NYJTL's Cary Leeds Center is very lucky that a professional of Rick's ability and experience is willing to devote his energies to making youth and adult programs in the South Bronx excellent," said Skip Hartman, NYJTL co-founder and current general manager of the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning. “He is a rare find—a person who is a superb teacher of the mechanics of tennis, who can also coach highly talented youngsters to a high level of competitive play, and who is so thoughtful and well organized.”
For the last 12 years, he has run the Con Petire Tennis School at Grand Slam Tennis club in Bedford, N.Y., which is an Ivan Lendl Tennis Center. The school’s mantra is to “seek great tennis together”, a philosophy he will bring to the Bronx.
“This philosophy, with the support of the staff and the folks there now, will integrate nicely into what we do at Cary Leeds,” said Ferman. “Maybe not specifically in those words, but the idea of learning to deal with adversity, plan for success, execute that plan and seek a level of excellence that makes you a successful person in life, not just in tennis. That’s all consistent with the original concept of NYJTL, and the vision that Arthur Ashe, Skip Hartman, Charlie Pasarell and others had when it began. With the help and support of the municipality, many generous donors led by the Leeds, Kiam and Ackman Families, so many people have come together to make this facility a reality. We have the tools and motivation to make it a really dynamic place, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Rick Ferman (far right) with Venus & Serena Williams at the U.S. Open