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When it comes to tennis, it's all about the stories

When it comes to tennis, it's all about the stories

Unequivocally a story will out-impact facts in memory recall. Why stories? Stories connect one another. Sports broadcaster legend and French Open Mixed Doubles champion Mary Carillo reminded me of this truth at one of our sit-down interviews. This most recognized female reporter in the sporting industry believes that people find and remember stories much more than loaded down information.

Let’s share some of the stories that I have acquired through the last three decades of tennis media broadcast and print career.   It was only my third live TV broadcast, as I was driving celebrated tennis journalist Bud Collins to the network studio for a 30-minute live-TV broadcast. I remember vividly asking Bud do you ever get nervous before going on air. Bud responded, yes of course, but Koz it is not nervousness. It is eagerness. You are ready and eager to show everyone what you can do. Wow, I have used this simple antidote to numerous players on all levels. Just thinking that you are feeling eager, not nervous, helps to take the tensions out of your body and mind. Bud and I also had loads of fun together. I would introduce him each time: “Ladies and gentlemen, for all you do, this BUD is for you”.   Bud would laugh every time, even though he heard my line 50-plus times.

Monica Seles and I worked together for eleven years at Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota, FL. Monica was the touring professional. I was the director of tennis, so we had a myriad of stories. I’ll share stories two. 

Monica’s dad and coach Karolj Seles had her playing practice singles matches. These were over-load training matches. Monica was playing against two men. Her brother Zolten was in the right court and my son Davidson in left. The guys never missed. Her winning shots kept coming back. It was a superb over-load match situation. I have tried it with several juniors and have seen tremendous benefit.

One more Seles story: her father would receive countless calls from parents eager to get his or her child coached by him. He would test and screen the zealous parents wishing to be trained by Coach Seles. He would ask the excessively excited parent “what tennis meant” to him or her. Parent generally answered, “oh tennis is the most important part of my life,  I could not live without it, I want my child to love it as much as I do”.  The ever-so polite and humble coach/cartoonist would say. “I don’t think that I can coach your child. The child must want the game more than the parent.”  Parents must be reminded of this. Here is the added humor of this story. A decade after Monica’s retirement, while interviewing her at a fundraiser that she and Lyndsay Davenport were playing at the Claremont Resort/Hotel in Berkley CA . . .  I shared with Monica how her father handled assertive parents. Monica responded, “I never knew that my dad was getting calls to coach young players. But that is the way that he trained my brother and me. If it looked like we didn’t look as if we were eager to be training, he would say that we have to stop practicing that day. It doesn’t look like you want to be out here as much as I do”.  Great message there for coaches.

It has been a real thrill to be part of the USPTA for the last half of a century. I have had the privilege to get interviews with some of the most productive tennis industry leaders. The next story comes from one of the most resolute USPTA trailblazers Bill Tym. Coach Tym served as our USPTA National President and our USPTA Executive Director.

One of our longest visits was spent on a golf cart, not playing golf but 4 hours driving and talking tennis teaching methods. I learned a very provocative method of teaching a beginner the game from this tennis grandfather to Ben Shelton. Bill Tym was Bryan Shelton’s early career coach. This legendary prolific tennis teacher shared with me that he often teaches new players to start with a one-hand backhand volley. Yes, that is true. Tym feels that is the best time to learn how to hit a backhand volley. It doesn’t mean that you will always volley one-handed on the backhand side. But you will know the feel and “how to volley”.  Wow I see nothing but merit and value in this concept. Here’s an addendum to this story.  At the 2017 World Tennis Day in New York at Madison Square Garden the Bryan Brothers were playing the McEnroe Brothers. Patrick McEnroe hits a two-handed backhand volley winner, brother John yells out great shot, but next time hit like a man! Hit it one-handed. Younger McEnroe replies, I did learn how to volley. I started one-handed on the backhand, then I added the two. Wow, good endorsement there.

Chris Evert and her father Jimmy Evert certainly have made their contribution to the game and our USPTA. In addition to attending Chris’s Pro-Celebrity Classic Fundraiser for two decades, we did a one-hour Fox Sports Florida Sports Profile on Chris. So, we had many chances to talk. In one of our conversations, she shared with me that “good players move their feet when they must move to the ball. But great players move their feet all the time”.   She shared that in practice that her father made her jump up and down 3 times after she hit the ball before moving to the next shot.

Tennis Hall of Famer Nick Bollettieri and I made a team. He loved being on camera. I had a camera and a mic. We hit dozens of professional and junior tournaments and loads of events from the Cayman Islands to Martha's Vineyard. I must have interviewed 200 of his former players. I have never met a person who had a negative word about this magnificent man. I always hear Nick say to his audience of USPTA professionals:  “Remember that we are servants in the service industry. Take pride in your service and keep serving and keeping them in the game."

One of the most indelible short stories was from a Franciscan monk, Father Joe. This priest shared with me one of the most impactful daily pieces of advice: “Lord make me an expert in finding one good trait in everyone that I see today”.  Goodness, it is challenging to find a more meaningful self-assignment. Imagine what a beautiful world we could have.

Now, let's take a moment to watch my interview with the Queen of Stories, Mary Carillo. Check it out below...



Written by: Dave "Koz" KozlowskiKozlowski is one of the USPTA's first 17 Master Professionals in the world. His show was previously broadcast on The Tennis Channel and he was named the USTA Broadcaster of the Year. 

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