Tracy Lawson blog: "I don’t work for a living. I get to play."

April 4, 2017 10:17 AM

Tracy Lawson teaches tennis with a focus on early development at the Ahwatukee Tennis Club in Phoenix. She is a past-president of USTA, Central Arizona, and she currently serves as chairperson of a number of USTA committees, including the Central Arizona Junior Council, Southwest Section Junior Competition Committee and Southwest Section Coaches Commission. In addition, she is a member of the national USTA Junior Competition Committee. Lawson is a member of the USTA 10 & under Workshop Faculty, USTA Player Development EDC (Early Development Camp) Lead Faculty, and she is a consultant for USTA Player Development for Early Development Camps and Train the Trainers. She has developed 10U events and other tournaments, boosting junior tournament participation in the USTA Central Arizona District, and she was selected to be a Net Generation Ambassador.

Lawson is married and has three children, who are all involved in tennis. Daughter Kelsey played four years of varsity tennis for DePaul University and now works for USTA Central Arizona as its Early Development Coordinator. Son Alex played for the University of Notre Dame, where he earned All-American status and is currently on the pro tour, ranked No. 271 in the world in doubles. Youngest son Zach played high school tennis and continues to play intramural tennis, along with other sports at Notre Dame.

Lawson will be blogging for for the next several weeks. She talks about her path to becoming a coach in her first entry.

By Tracy Lawson

Some people know early in their lives what they want to do for a living, and sometimes people find their path later and entirely by chance. For me, it was serendipity that I found my passion and began teaching young children to play tennis.

I grew up in a sports family. My dad played pro basketball, and my mom played in the US Open a few times. I played USTA national-level junior tennis and Division I college tennis. After college, I traded the tennis court for a court of law and settled into a career as a litigation paralegal. Later, I had three children and became a stay-at-home mom.  

Given my sports background, it was only natural that when my kids were old enough, I would take them to the courts and toss tennis balls to them. It was a fun time we spent together. Soon, my middle son was begging to go every day, so we put the older two kids in lessons at the local club.

One day, I took my kids to their group lesson, but an instructor called in sick. The head pro called out to me, “Can you come teach this class?” My first reaction: “Um….no. I don’t know how to do that!” But for whatever reason, what came out of my mouth was, “Ok, sure!” And so it began.

As my kids started playing more and competing, I began volunteering for the USTA, first at the local level and then for the section. At the club, I was typically assigned the classes for the youngest kids. I had the most patience of anyone there. I wanted those classes.

During this period of helping out, in 2008, my USTA section invited me to a coaching symposium at Carson. That weekend changed everything. Dr. Anne Pankhurst spoke and introduced a better way to teach under-10 children on a smaller court with a lighter, decompressed ball. I was amazed to see how well a 9-year-old could play tennis when the court was smaller and the ball was slower, bouncing in their strike zone. Knowing the challenges my own children had as well as the kids I was teaching, it made perfect sense to me.

I came home, bought the balls and immediately changed how I taught classes. I started attending USTA 10U coach trainings, I began working EDC Camps in our section and poured myself into learning everything I could about how to better teach 10U children. Anne Pankhurst and the USTA changed my life and gave me a purpose I had no idea I was going to have. I have a deeper appreciation for the sport and what it can teach a child. It’s an incredible feeling to see a child having fun on the court, to see them proud of their accomplishments, to see them grow and mature through tennis.

I don’t work for a living. I get to play.