Originally Published: September 12, 2016 11:38 p.m.
This past week I received an email from Melody Braden that had brought tears to her eyes. The forwarded email stated that her husband, Vic, had finally been nominated for consideration to be inducted into the “International Tennis Hall of Fame” in Newport, Rhode Island for 2017.
Vic is in competition with another well-known tennis person, Steve Flink, known for his work as a journalist and historian in the tennis industry.
Vic died about two years ago at the age of 85. He spent his life working in the field of tennis in almost every capacity imaginable, helping to bring the game of tennis to what it has become today. He did that on a professional level, as a coach to the masses, with his tennis college’s around the United States. In Southern California, his impact came through his scientific research center that went beyond the sport of tennis, through the written word in books, video tapes, TV commentary, promotion of professional events, traveling the world as a tennis ambassador, ... and helping to bring Open Tennis to the forefront in 1968, and as a junior college, college and professional player.
His body of work started in the 40s and continued until the day he died.
He was truly a mentor to thousands in the game of tennis not just in the U.S., but all over the world.
There was a time when it seemed he was everywhere, on the court teaching to large groups of people weekly, writing best selling tennis books like “Tennis for the Future” (1977), on many television shows, touring Asia helping them become what they are now today - the fastest growing tennis market in the world, in the broadcasting booth, and teaching instructors and coaches the scientifically proven ways to show others how to play the game of tennis correctly.
Vic got rid of so many myths and in a manner that made people smile and laugh while learning. He was a showman and came alive when in front of a crowd; yet, he was a gentleman, caring and introspective - down to earth.
People couldn’t help but love him.
Vic was a whirl-wind of energy, always moving, always thinking, trying to improve the creation of the tiniest to largest of what makes a tennis player tick.
In my own world, and without even meeting the man until the last 10 years, he was my mentor. I memorized his book; the lines he quoted, I still use on a daily basis.
Vic scientifically proved what he taught; many others in the field at that time did not. And, as I stated above, I am only one of thousands he affected ... multiply that out to the hundreds of people each of us have worked with over a body of 40 years and you get a real feel for the impact this one man had on the tennis industry.
Others who are nominated for the “Hall of Fame” are the likes of Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, as well as Monique Kalkman, a Paralympic gold medalist and well-known Dutch wheelchair tennis player.
Vic is definitely in good company.
Did those players help push the game of tennis along anywhere near what Vic did? No, but they still get the big spot-light and Vic knew his role, which was helping others learn and love the game. Thus, one of his great quotes, “Laugh and Win” - or “Hit the same old boring shot and you’ll be a winner by Friday.” Simple at times, but he knew how to get his point across to the beginner and to the top professionals.
The induction process is interesting. The nominees are selected from nominations submitted by the general public and tennis community. Then a committee of 23 individuals from around the world with special expertise bring the names into three categories - Recent Player, Master Player, and Contributor.
The next group that votes on these nominations are a wide range of historians, Hall of Famers, and individuals who are highly knowledgeable of the sport and its history. You must receive an affirmative vote of 75 percent of returned ballots - and that is done by an independent accounting firm.
The 2017 inductees will be announced in the first quarter of 2017.
All I can say is this: Vic deserves this highest tennis honor. In my extensive research, in the game of tennis there have been few people who have come close to helping make the game become what it is today as Vic Braden did - not on a playing level, although he was a good player, but in the trenches, to the general public, as a promoter, teaching the teachers, an idea man, scientist-researcher, humorist, and friend to all.
He transcended all levels of tennis, which is very unique.
It’s just too bad this wasn’t done while he was still with us because I’d have loved to listen to him once more, tell his great stories, reflect on his famous quips, hear his laugh and see his smile - while letting us know how we all can make this world and this game that much better.
Vic was a “one of a kind” and you can bet I’ll be there cheering for his wife and all of those speaking for him next summer in Newport.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.