Dave Fish, former coach of the Harvard Men’s Team, joins us and reflects brilliantly on how the changes we are seeing in society at present can be traced in almost direct parallel through the development of the game of tennis in America and the establishment of the Davis Cup. He then looks across the Covid-19 issue and societal pressures and forms what he sees might be a new paradigm in local, national and international tennis.
“Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste”
Dave puts in perspective, by referring back to the 1960s and 70s and how his collegiate career progressed, how tennis and role models helped to maintain his goals and moral views as society questioned itself, much like today.
Dave believes that Covid could positively and significantly change the face of tennis, from collegiate tennis through to junior tennis and even at the professional level. He sees a future that is much more “localized” through UTR, rather than chasing points through certain age categories. Funds might not be as available, in the near term, to juniors following Covid. The former Harvard coach sees a possibility in which a refocusing on player development in the coming years might bring success to American tennis again.
Through the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) program, Dave believes tennis will also be further “localized” – with tournaments across all age groups based on ability, not age. More local play will be a part of the future picture of competitive tennis, from juniors all the way through to the professional leve.
Dave discusses the NCAA rules and how they may come to affect decisions by junior tennis players in which some juniors are more than ever repeating 8th grade. This “gap” year then allows American junior players to compete with older European players who are participating at higher and higher rates in college tennis. Communication at the right time and through the appropriate avenues by a junior to a college coach is crucial for both the player and the coach, Dave points out, as they work through the recruiting process.
And, having spent over 40 years as head coach at Harvard, how would Dave approach a parent and junior player who might ask: “I won’t develop as much at college as I will on a pro tour… you might just keep me at number 5 for all four years.”
Dave’s biggest challenge as a coach? Well, it wasn’t getting James Blake on to the tour. Have a listen and find out what made Dave Fish one of the greatest tennis coaches in NCAA history.