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What Coaches Live For: The Tale of a Grateful Student

The following was written by Coach Jim Coyne from Northern California. In Jim’s words, “I would like to send you a short article I wrote about a long time student of mine, Jack Satterfield, who for family reasons had to move to Florida when COVID struck. We read/hear so much about the children of today in a negative way. This is a story about Jack Satterfield earning his gold ball at the 2023 USTA National Clay Court Championships in the Boy’s 16 and under division. He is currently ranked #1 in the USTA National B16’s division. I don’t know if you accept articles, but I’m happy to send it to you as I believe it is a heartfelt story that is motivating for players, parents and coaches.” For the record, I LOVE getting articles like this from players, parents, and coaches to share on our platform, so please send me what you’ve got!

As I’ve seen over the course of 50 years as a tennis coach, the relationship between a student and a coach is a complicated one.  It’s a relationship filled with triumph, challenges, and very special moments.  Of the many notes of appreciation, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive over the years, one that came to me recently ranks right up there.

Jack in action

Back in 2014, a six-year-old boy named Jack Satterfield decided he cared a lot more about tennis than swimming.  So, Jack showed up at our club’s summer tennis program.

Jack immediately took to the sport; not necessarily with perfect technique, but instead, with a deep love of the game. He hit on our favorite backboard mini-court for hours on end.  There wasn’t an afternoon nor a Saturday morning when you couldn’t find Jack at the wall.  Just a year after he started tennis, Jack set a record of hitting 750 balls in a row.

Jack’s passion quickly led to him playing in junior tennis team matches and, eventually, the local USPTA Junior Tennis Circuit. Soon, he dominated the 10 & under division and moved on to USTA NorCal entry level tournaments. Moving up the rankings, Jack loved the competition and never lost sight of the most important side of tennis – first-rate sportsmanship.

His development was unique.  Jack was willing to play anyone, anywhere, anytime, any age.  And while in Jack’s early years, repetition and the backboard were part of his tennis education, once Jack had acquired some skills, he was the last student in the world I’d ever ask to hit 20 straight cross courts.  With Jack, lessons had to be more game-like.  Clinics revolved around games like 21, volley game, hat trick, 7/11.  Learning the tweener became one of his favorite practice activities and through the years, Jack has won many points using this tricky shot. Rising up the rankings, Jack played on NorCal Sectional teams and was selected to attend USTA Player Development Camps.

I worked with Jack for six years. Every step up the competitive ladder, he always enjoyed the challenge, figuring out how to beat opponents. It seemed like the sky was the limit as he loved competition. He was the #1 Boy’s 12 & Under in the NorCal rankings. I was very proud of his accomplishments, his multiple sportsmanship awards most of all.

After the COVID pandemic hit, Jack’s family had to make a tough decision to leave Northern California and move to Tampa, Florida, to be closer to family.  Jack was 12 years old when the family moved.

Once he was in Florida, Jack joined Eric Dobsha’s high performance workout group and met up with one of the pros, Sukhwa Young.  Eric and Sukhwa were both excellent players and committed coaches.  Jack also began to play more on clay and I’m certain this increased his already high tennis IQ.  Jack continued to generate great results, winning the 2023 state high school championship and the coveted Bobby Curtis Florida State Title.

Jack’s next big test was in Delray Beach and the 2023 USTA Boys 16 National Clay Court Championships.  Seeded seventh, Jack was confident going into the tournament, but with extremely humid conditions, one never knows how things will turn out. From the quarterfinals on, Jack played three boys who have had wins over him this year, including an old rival from NorCal.  Jack won each round in straight sets and received the Champions trophy and traditional USTA gold ball, from the mayor of Delray Beach, for winning a National Championship.

Jack & his family

On the drive home Jack, decided he was not going to keep the coveted gold ball. Instead, he sent it to me in appreciation of the six years we spent together on the journey up to number one in Northern California. That alone was an impressive gesture, but it’s the note that came along with the gold ball that really was an emotional moment for me as a coach.

As Jack wrote, “Dear Jim, I really wanted you to have this gold ball. Without you, I wouldn’t have it. I hope you can keep it in your office so that Sleepy Hollow kids will know that anything is possible from these courts.  Thank you for everything, Jack.”

Coach Sukhwa Young, Jack, & Coach Jim at Kalamazoo 2023

As I mentioned, Jack won many sportsmanship awards at various USTA tournaments and player development camps. So maybe Jack’s generous sharing of his first gold ball and considerate note are not out of character. This action speaks volumes for Jack, his family, friends, and how he thinks and cares about others.

When reading Jack’s note to our summer campers and coaches, I could feel that they all knew what this meant to Jack, to me, and the Sleepy Hollow program. Those who have been a part of Jack’s development couldn’t help but smile.

I have been blessed with coaching many highly ranked players, but this one tops the list. Jack is a leader of the next generation.  In his moment of glory, he thought about how he reached this point and he remembered his coaches that were in the trenches.

I know that many of you have similar stories to tell and trust that me telling this story will speak to the thousands of players who don’t realize all the blood, sweat and tears we coaches put into their development.

Northern California-based Jim Coyne has been coaching tennis for 50 years and has been a USPTA member since 1982.  Back in 1976, at the age of 23, Jim became director of tennis at the Claremont Resort & Spa in Oakland, a position he held for 27 years.  His experience also includes seven years as the director of junior tennis for the USTA NorCal section.  Currently director of tennis at Sleepy Hollow Swim & Tennis Club in Orinda, Jim resides in Alameda with his wife, Linda. 

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