Who would ever guess the son of a couple missionaries living in a Southwest African village would produce one of the most well-known teaching professionals ever know?
Dennis Van der Meer, who was born in 1933 played competitive tennis starting the game at the age of 6 and through the age of 19 in Cape Town realizing he wasn’t quite good enough to go pro - so it was the coaching of the game he decided to tackle.
In 1961 he emigrated to the U.S. and became an innovative coach in California, teaching top national juniors and world champions, all the while developing a vision to standardize group teaching methods to all students of the game.
In 1976 Van der Meer took his thought and made it a reality when he founded the Professional Tennis Registry, a program that certified teaching tennis professionals.
He located to Hilton Head Island and opened his Tennis University there in 1979.
Tennis was booming and he was a major part of it.
With his university, the Professional Tennis Registry, books, video’s, out-reach programs in Italy and Sweet Briar College, Van der Meer has probably taught more people how to play and teach tennis personally than any other person in the history of the game.
He met his wife Pat in 1980 and within a year they were married, joined at the hip since that time as a couple and business partners creating an empire of tennis accolades around the world.
Currently his organization has certified nearly 16,000 people throughout 125 countries, in order to help grown the game of tennis.
In the past there was a little rift with the United States Professional Tennis Association, both vying for the same title and clientele of certifying top tennis instructors - but in the past 15 years that has simmered down and both are still going strong with many instructors certified by both entities.
Known worldwide for his creative teaching techniques, he’s received numerous awards, including being named “Olympic Developmental Coach of the Year” in 1997. He’s been inducted into many Halls of Fame, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Greenwich, England.
Van der Meer became one of the first registered coaches of both the ATP and WTA, and has coached hundreds of nationally and internationally ranked professional and junior players throughout his career, including World champions in singles and doubles. He served as coach for both Billie Jean King and Margaret Court for the acclaimed “Battle of the Sexes” exhibition in 1973.
A believer in the concept of tennis for everyone, he developed courses and manuals for teaching wheelchair tennis and adaptive techniques.
He always had a knack for finding the best, most efficient way to help players reach their maximum potential, a trait he has imparted to his staff of coaches.
In 2011 Dennis at the age of 78 had a massive stroke and is now wheelchair bound himself with his wife Pat still over-seeing his body of work in South Carolina.
So raise a glass to one of our tennis legends.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.