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The Tennis Guru

Updated on November 21, 2015

"P.O.T.-G" qualified for the Australian Open main draw.

"P.O.T.-G" is not only a world-class tennis player; He has been a world-class tennis teacher as well.
"P.O.T.-G" is not only a world-class tennis player; He has been a world-class tennis teacher as well. | Source

I had a profound, 30-minute phone conversation with a 57-year-old, fellow tennis teaching professional the other evening. The Marin County Tennis Pro-On-the-Go, “P.O.T.-G,” happens to be a giant. Therefore, I was inquisitive whether he was standing up, sitting down, or lying down while we conversed.

Some say that those who “do” cannot teach. Others maintain that those who teach cannot “do.” The “P.O.T.-G” has successfully taught and “done.” He thoroughly enjoys guiding his clients through the necessary hoops so that they will achieve strong tennis games and he takes great pride in heartily interacting with his clients to ensure that they will have a good time in the process.

I have encountered many decent tennis teaching professionals who are mediocre tournament players, if they even have ever competed. However, “P.O.T.-G” qualified for the Australian Open main draw and was amongst the Top-150 players on the ATP Tour for eight years. Then, he spent over a generation as the Head Teaching Professional for one of the ritziest, private tennis clubs in Marin County. During this time, he amassed a cattle ranch with a mountain and river, as well as other material assets.

Now, “P.O.T.-G” coaches scores of locally and nationally ranked junior players, including two 16-year-old brothers who reached the doubles semi-finals of the Orange Bowl 18-year-old division this year. The tall tennis teacher realistically predicts that the team will possibly become the world’s best doubles team in seven years, following in the footsteps of the Bryan Brothers and Williams Sisters (the latter are mostly singles superstars, despite being dynamic duos). He also coaches the talented children of a former Top-30 WTA ranked lady and her husband, a previous Top-200 ranked ATP player.

Former ATP #4 world-ranked, Brad Gilbert, who coached Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick each to the #1 ranking in the world, mentioned on ESPN the exemplary coaching work that this tennis teacher performs. “P.O.T.-G” commands a professional fee, commensurate with doctors and lawyers. And, because this is America, home of the competitive free marketplace, he arguably deserves the heavy bounty.

He is probably the finest tennis teacher in the wealthiest county of the United States. Marin County’s climate is ideally suited almost year-round for competitive tennis enthusiasts who fervently wish to take their games to the next level— and don’t mind shelling out a crisp Ben Franklin for each hour of instruction.

(I am a sparser renown tennis teacher in Marin County. In 1993, I defeated the winner of the Marin Cup 7-6, after previously running three miles to the court. An NCAA Division I, varsity player from University of San Francisco, I used to take two, $20 an hour, discounted lessons a week from Mike, a colleague of “P.O.T.-G’s” on the ATP Tour and subsequent teaching pro at “P.O.T.-G’s” country club. Both teaching professionals have tremendous senses of humour and are friends.

Perhaps one reason Mike helped me rebuild my tennis game from scratch is because I previously proved myself by winning 3rd Place National Championship Cal Riverside’s Walk-On Tournament, before losing my ability to hit the ball over the net. Please read my autobiographical novel, The Ascent of a Barbarious Court Squatter to learn just what happened after my tennis game temporarily disintegrated!

Incidentally, I got edged out 6-4 in the third set in the fifth and Final Round of a sanctioned, 5.5 “A” singles tournament to the same champion of the Marin Cup that I snagged a set off on that other occasion, as well.)

“P.O.T.-G’s” Mobile Driving Unit is a metaphor for a vehicle that takes you wherever you wish to go. It is a compact, money-making outfit that never leaves you stranded in any one place because it cleanly shoots profiteers off to premier locales, along with their emotional, cerebral and material assets.

The “replenishing transporter room” speedily zips along towards fresh opportunities encouraging minimum baggage. Generally singing, it is not good to screech immobile unless one is about to pivot on Life’s Court. A vanishing, wayward Unit that cannot be tracked and hounded by the Paparazzi…A renegade, bouncing bounder that wins with impunity…It seems as if it cannot fail.

The “Unit” that is mobile implies that there is an entire, team collaboration within P.O.T.-G.’s repertoire that packs, ships, and delivers the juiciest elements of specialized labor. “POT-G” transports his racquets, tennis balls, apparel, ball picker-uppers, and most importantly, his wealth of knowledge and abundance of tennis love he disseminates to his hungry clientele. Rest assured, the Mobile Unit keeps the heart’s pride of steady improvement pumping smoothly while efficiently serving as a springboard of achievement and consequent wealth for all concerned.

When there is high demand for a service or product, there is little need for B.S., even though “P.O.T.-G” is both charismatic and a worldly conversationalist. (A “W.T.”, World Traveler, he played professional tournaments all over the world and delighted in an abundance of cultures.) When amicable qualities are naturally summoned during the course of an informational, at times formal, exhilarating, intense, albeit concurrently less than absolutely dead-pan coaching session, the tall tennis teacher talks the “ball crackage” smack as well as he struts. To keep his senior body in good shape to coach several hours daily in his late fifties, “P.O.T.-G” briskly steps up to five flights of the Mill Valley Dip Sea Stairs in a row.

“P.O.T.-G” admits that he thinks it is a shame that the best school teachers in the United States often do not command the recognition that he does for enlightening passionate students of leisure about a special skill that some may consider “non-essential.”

Nonetheless, tennis is perhaps the world’s quintessential, individual sport because it enobles the seamless transfer of invaluable capabilities to virtually an infinite array of other life disciplines. These additional domains that may lead to dominions in the larger world require confidence, determination, and focus. They may prove far more useful to the newly enhanced skill bearers than the microcosm of merely the rectangular confines of the tennis court. The aesthetic, relentless pursuit of excellence uniquely invigorates the mind’s boundless fortitude, as well as enhances the body’s health and previously realized, capacity for endurance.

Tennis’ elite series of various mental, emotional, and physical skills takes more than a decade (tens of thousands of concentrated hours) to master. “P.O.T.-G” has perfected this arguably integral art form internally and has molded newbies into champions for well over 50 years…

The tall teacher was an All-American for Cal Berkeley for two years before quitting the Bears and hitting the pro tour.

Since then, he has spent a lot of time reading about spiritual gurus, practicing meditation while starring on his back up at redwood treetops, and watching documentaries. His philosophy is that it doesn’t matter what kind of work someone does nor how much material assets he or she possesses, but rather the person’s character and heart. That is what the person has the most control of and is the most important way he or she may affect the world. Given “P.O.T.-G’s” very specialized skill sets, this liberal assessment process of an individual’s true “worth” is not surprising.

“P.O.T.-G” explains, “One has to be okay with oneself, no matter what one’s circumstances are.” He points out that there is nothing wrong with someone who is trying to save some coin making his night castle a comfortably parked van in a quiet neighborhood…with a wanderlust for winging it, a “piss cup” for late evening excretions and a 22-millimeter to possibly ward off marauders with unintended, warning shots through the roof!

Yet, the question inevitably arises, aren’t someone’s work ethic and aptitudes inherent parts of their moral character, to a certain degree? Don’t these attributes distinguish themselves from the less accomplished with some ethical impart? I think that “P.O.T.-G" and myself would argue that work ethic and aptitude, but not necessarily the lack of these characteristics, are partial moral determinants. These attributes distinguish the levels that one betters oneself through the pursuit of excellence and the extent that one is capable of bettering society. In our survivalist world, bettering ourselves and others through self-improvement is admirable because it is the best manner that one may attempt to override our collective human imperfection that otherwise drags us down— quicker. Bettering ourselves encourages us to live and cherish G-d’s Gift.

Thus, there may be a moral component to achievement, however circumstantial; however one’s prospects are unequally allocated to others through virtual pre-destiny. Sometimes the fine line, grey area between pre-destiny and free will is very difficult, if not impossible to favorably re-route.

With this pre-disposition in mind, how may we be fully responsible for own morality or actions at all, when there are often stacked decks for and against us before we had virtually any inception in matters nor choice in how our behaviors have been pre-molded by hardly shakable circumstances? We are all bogged down— some vastly (and irretrievably) farther than others.

The devil’s advocate to this argument is that someone has got to take responsibility for each human’s actions so we might as well pin this responsibility upon the individual who operates his or her own machinery, however flawed and automatically churning into oblivion this machinery is from the onset.

Please review my realistic, social conscience platforms from a progressive standpoint on homelessness, the vicious cycle of inner-city youths’ intergenerational ineptitude, and the elusive quest for world harmony in my novel, The Ascent of a Barbarious Court Squatter.
At the same time, “P.O.T.-G” is the antithesis of a slouch. He trained in tennis like a mad person from the ages of only four through 28, when he retired as a world class athlete. When he was only a teenager of 15-years-old, he became ranked third in Northern California Mens Semi-Professional, Open category! After an extensive tenure on the pro tennis circuit, he placed third in a steeplechase run up to the 48th floor of the TransAmerica building in San Francisco. (He trained every day using a crow bar on his back with 20-pound sandbags on each end for six months to adequately prepare for his bronze vaulting!)

After he retired from the pro circuit while only breaking even as one of the world’s best players, “P.O.T.-G” has given his all to students every lesson for 30 years. He constantly helps his proteges by fusing his past know-how to annihilate opponents mentally, structurally, strategically, and physically. He keeps up-to-date with modern techniques that current world-class professionals implement. His pedagogy has evolved beyond his exceptional playing days. Yet, he still knows how to convey the competitive sports mindset and hardly tangible strategies to his students that are essential to competing at the highest echelons in the arena, especially because he has personally done so.

As a potential incongruity to his prior disclosure of accepting human beings for their heart before their accomplishments, “P.O.T.-G” says, “Each of us is ultimately responsible for taking control of our own respective situations, as best we can.” As a determined and hard-working coach with lofty expectations of his devoted clientele, “P.O.T.-G” has experienced far more material success as a tennis teacher than as a top player. And deservedly so.

Perhaps an incongruity in one’s emotional intent/activation v.s. the execution of work-related accomplishments may not be irreconcilable. Certain discrepancy may be chalked up to the multi-dimensionality within human nature. Different focuses of nurturing may provide varying degrees of similar nourishment.


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