Originally Published: June 20, 2017 6 a.m.
Do you ever sit back and look at your life retrospectively and have thoughts of things you might have done differently if you had the chance to go back and have a do-over?
It kills me when some people say in these regards, “I wouldn’t change one thing and would do it all again exactly the same.” They lie. Yes, every thing that takes place molds us in some way or other, builds character and gives us experience, good bad or ugly, but certainly there are some major things you might have thoughts of that you wonder — what-if I’d gone in that direction.
I can’t tell you how many people who took up tennis later in life have told me they would have started playing tennis as a kid. But maybe if they had they wouldn’t enjoy it as much as they do today.
In a tennis related manner there are things I would have done differently, would love to have another chance, but as in the movie “Damn Yankees” — the devil hasn’t arrived yet to ask me to sell my soul for that moment.
Should I have played college tennis some where, heck yes. My excuse is that I didn’t know I was good enough. I went to a small high school where I started the tennis team — so I was the driver, coach, recruiter, T-Shirt printer, scheduler, as well as one of the players. It would have been nice for a coach to encourage me in that manner, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Such is life.
When I finally decided I wanted to make tennis my life profession I thought about where I might try to get the best foot hold. Two interviews were put together in Arizona and California in early 1976. At the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix and at Vic Braden’s Tennis College in Southern California, with Vic.
I got the job at the Biltmore and never went for the interview with Braden, and shortly after he exploded with fame and fortune, coming out with his book “Tennis for the Future,” television/PBS, his tennis college, doing European tours teaching tennis to the masses — you name it, Vic was doing it. What a ride it might have been.
Trust me, the Biltmore was doing all kinds of neat things as well — professional tournaments, Virginia Wade as the touring pro, all kinds of celebrities/business icons and special tennis clinics with people like Bobby Riggs, Arthur Ashe, Rosco Tanner, etc., weekly convention tournaments and clinics, a club inter-twined with the resort....but still, Vic was on the cutting edge in so many ways and later in life I talked with him about what didn’t take place. (He said he probably would have hired me.)
When I left the Phoenix area (Red Lion’s La Posada Resort) to move to Prescott to start the Prescott Racquet Club at the age of 30, that was a dream come true as well. We started putting things together in 1983 and opened the doors in 1985, it was fun and it was exciting. We opened with around 400 memberships and were pretty successful, but we really missed the boat by not having each Kingswood lot/house owner be part of the package in their HOA dues. If that had taken place, the club would have had the finances it needed to stay vibrant 30-plus years later. As a total private enterprise it’s so much tougher to do.
There have been many job possibilities throughout my career that would have taken me away from my family (being divorced with kids) that would have been right up my alley in the world of tennis — but leaving my kids wasn’t going to happen. USTA positions, large indoor and outdoor tennis facilities I could have managed, management within the men’s tour, coaching around the world, but over-all most of that is now hind-sight.
Things as they are today are just fine. Managing the Yavapai College tennis facility is fun and challenging, we have a great group of people who are vibrant in the community working and playing there, it’s enjoyable to write a weekly column about what happens in the world of tennis at all levels, running tournaments, leagues and drop-in’s, teaching each level and age of players, as well as continuing to compete. To be somewhat diversified makes each day exciting, while slowly but surely creating a changing of the guard...out with the old and in with the new.
One thing I don’t have any regrets about is having worked in the field of tennis my whole adult life — and you can take that to the bank.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-652-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.