What a week! For those of you who don’t follow ParentingAces on Facebook or Twitter, let me fill you in . . .
When my son and I decided to spend his Fall Break in Southern California, it was really with the intent of taking follow-up visits to the colleges he’s interested in attending next year and getting in some training on the side. What we did in actuality was that and so much more.
The trip started with a great hit with Lucas Bellamy (Steve’s son) in the Pacific Palisades. The boys did some drills then played a set while I caught up on all the tennis news with Steve. After grabbing a quick lunch, we drove up the coast a bit to Malibu where my son had a hitting session with one of the Pepperdine players, Stefan Menichella. The boys hit and Stefan answered a lot of questions from my son about life at Pepperdine and how he came to play there. That night, we joined friend and coach Craig Cignarelli for an Italian dinner in Calabasas and caught up on all things tennis.
On Sunday, we drove back up the coast to Malibu for my son to hit with Stefan again. Afterward, we went to lunch nearby, and some of the other Pepperdine players joined us. It was a great opportunity for my son to gather even more information about the school and tennis program.
The next day, my son had a session with Craig Cignarelli at the Malibu Racquet Club. They did some drills and some talking while I did my radio show with Tim Mayotte – not a bad place to broadcast! We spent the rest of our Monday hanging out around Santa Monica then had dinner with most of the Bellamy clan (sons Robbie and Lincoln were unable to join us, unfortunately). Having no brothers himself, my son was very entertained by Lucas and Roscoe to say the least! I got to visit with Steve and Beth and pick their brains about raising 4 boys and balancing tennis and family obligations. I learned a lot!
Tuesday was another session with Craig alongside one of the pro players he’s training, Kevin Lynch. Afterward, we all went for a late lunch and did lots of talking. Kevin has a great story: he came to tennis pretty late, playing multiple sports in high school. When he was looking at colleges, he wandered over to the tennis facility at Seattle University, saw the team practicing with their coach, and had an AHA! moment. Kevin wound up playing #1 for Seattle by the end of his college tenure and decided to pursue a professional career in tennis. He told me his goal is to see how good he can get, how far up the rankings he can climb. His work ethic is impeccable, and his attitude both on and off the court reflects his desire and drive.
Mid-week, my son worked with Craig again, this time with both Kevin and Stefan. I wound up dropping him off at the Malibu Racquet Club that morning then hung out with my oldest daughter, Emma, for most of the afternoon. My son had a great day! After hitting with the guys, they went to lunch, then my son joined Stefan for an evening class at Pepperdine. It was the first time he had sat in on a college class, and he loved it! Stefan is majoring in Sports Administration – which is what my son is interested in studying – and the class they attended was a seminar on the business of sports taught by Pepperdine’s former Athletic Director. I highly recommend having your son or daughter sit in on a class at the various schools just to see what it’s all about. For my son it was so enlightening to see the difference between high school and college classes – not just in terms of the content but also in terms of the specificity of the subject matter and the way students engage with the professor.
On the first day of our trip, we found out there was going to be a Futures tournament in Irvine with the qualies starting on Friday. Though we had missed the entry deadline, we decided to drive down there on Thursday (it’s only an hour from Santa Monica) so my son could sign in as an on-site alternate just in case someone pulled out last minute. We spent most of Thursday at the Woodbridge Tennis Club so my son could train with our friend, Thomas Shubert, and one of the players he coaches. The boys were on court for about 3 hours, combining fitness, agility, and hitting drills while I watched from the sidelines. After their session, we went for a quick lunch then headed over to the Racquet Club of Irvine for the guys to sign into the tournament. We were so surprised by how many people we saw that we knew, both players and coaches! The tennis world is certainly a small one!
We had an early start on Friday so my son could warm up with some of the Futures players before their 9am matches. When we arrived at the club, we saw our old buddy, Lester Cook, who was there coaching two of the players – Kevin Lynch and Ryoto Tachi. My son hit with the 3 of them then waited to see if a qualies spot would open up for him. Meanwhile, we watched some great tennis with my son warming up yet another player later in the day. He also had the chance to watch one of UCSB’s (another school on my son’s list) players, Teague Hamilton, fight through a tough 3-setter in his first round match. My son sat next to Teague’s parents and had the chance to talk with them about their son’s experience in college. There were several UCSB players cheering on their team-mate, and my son met and chatted with them as well.
After the first round matches had all been played (my son didn’t make it in, unfortunately), Thomas took my son and his player Alec back to Woodbridge for another hitting/fitness session while Alec’s mom and I went for coffee nearby. Alec is also a senior in high school, so we moms had a lot to talk about! That evening, we all went for dinner in Irvine before my son and I made the trek back to Santa Monica.
While we were waiting for dinner, though, I got a text message asking if my son would be available as a hitting partner for Mike Bryan (yes, that Mike Bryan of the Bryan Brothers!) the next morning. Um, YES! So, on Saturday morning, we drove an hour up to Camarillo and the Spanish Hills Country Club for my son to have his very first experience as the hitting partner for a top-ranked professional player. What an incredible day! It all started with a warm-up on court with Mike while his parents, Wayne and Kathy, looked on. Then, Wayne hopped on court with the guys and started running drills. This went on for about 90 minutes followed by a set then some on-court stretching.
During one of their water breaks, my son mentioned his love of the Dave Matthews Band since he knew Mike was also a huge fan and friends with several of the musicians in the group. That led to a discussion of music and the fact that my son played drums from time to time. So, at the end of their tennis practice, Mike invited us back to his house so my son could play some music with him and Wayne. Are you kidding me???? I can’t tell you how excited we both were for my son to have this opportunity! I think my son was more nervous to play drums with Mike and Wayne than he was being on the tennis court with them! But, he took full advantage of the moment and held his own musically as well as tennis-wise.
Wayne invited us to join them for lunch before heading back to Santa Monica. My son took advantage of the opportunity to ask lots of questions of all the Bryans, including questions about UCSB, Wayne’s alma mater. Of course, we got into a discussion of what’s going on in college tennis with the format and scoring changes, but I digress . . .
It was the perfect ending to a perfect week! Each time we’ve gone to SoCal for my son’s tennis, he’s come away with more weapons in his arsenal, both on and off the court. He’s completely focused on his goal of playing college tennis and keeping up his GPA in order to keep his options open. He has signed up (before the deadline this time!) to play his first Futures tournament in a few weeks and has other junior tournaments on his schedule as well. The goal line is getting closer!