Introduction by Josh Gettler:
I first met Chris, where else, but on the tennis courts in Santa Monica. I was waiting for a court with a tennis student and a bucket of balls. I recall being immediately struck by his tall stature (6'3), his retro tennis attire and silvery-blonde ponytail sticking out of his hat...and thinking this guy is truly old school "California". I am not exactly sure what we talked about that day, but we exchanged numbers and I walked away thinking that he was really personable and friendly, unlike most people I'd met in California up to that point. Fast forward approximately 2 years, Chris has become my number one tennis friend, a true friend and someone I can talk to about anything. He's taught me countless drills and has helped tremendously with my tennis coaching. He is a real mensch, and anyone who's been fortunate enough to be in his presence, to learn and play tennis with him, can fully attest to this fact. Chris has coached countless people throughout his career and continues coaching all over Los Angeles. He also heads up his own bi-weekly publication "Tennis. It's a Lifestyle". Chris- thank you for contributing to our blog and being a genuine friend.
Down from my 75-year-old grandmother’s attic came a light green trash bag with 50 formerly white, but now grey tennis balls along with a wooden Tad Imperial tennis racquet wrapped in a leather cover and strapped into a press. This hand off started me on a 50 plus year trek. Tennis took me from small town Millersville, Pennsylvania to the tennis concession in Central Park - New York City, then to the Colombo Swim Club in Sri Lanka and finally to Los Angeles. There I served as Tennis Director for the Ketchum YMCA for nearly 30 years. All the while running tennis camps as well. This is the history of what I live and call: the “Tennis Lifestyle”.
Ketchum YMCA, Downtown Los Angeles
The high school tennis team needed players, so the Tad Imperial was dusted off. My self-taught slice backhand and enough athleticism to keep the ball in play was enough to make the Junior Varsity team and play an occasional match. That high school team would be the beginning of a life-long love of tennis which continues to this day.
I was there for the very beginning of the “Tennis Boom.” Tennis became a common bond among my friends and we played virtually every spare minute when we were not working or in school. This base of tennis was enough to propel me into the Tennis Lifestyle though at the time I didn’t know how enveloping it would be.
Division #3 college tennis came on the scene but my refusal to cut my hair (stupid in hindsight) found me cut from the team. However, I continued to play daily and started teaching friends who wanted to learn. Tennis as a Lifestyle had not entered in as a possible means of supporting one’s self full time but between odd jobs and teaching a few tennis lessons the inevitable let’s use that college business degree and get on with things remained pushed to the future.
In a type of kismet moment, the owners of the company I was working for agreed to run an indoor tennis facility. Thanks to the “Tennis Boom”, they found themselves successful and opened a second six-court club. The company knew one of their employees was a tennis person with a business degree and at the age of 24 I was named tennis manager/director of the Quaker Valley Tennis Club. From that point on, the Tennis Lifestyle revved full force never to really slow down.
Getting people to play tennis, play better tennis, meet others who have an interest in the sport and just enjoy a sport one can play their entire life became a mission for me.
After Quaker Valley, I managed a larger club - the Wynfield Club in York, Pennsylvania. It was a huge facility with five indoor courts, six outdoor clay, two outdoor hard courts, four squash courts and an Olympic sized pool. As the tennis boom began to wane around this time, the club moved away from tennis and into other sports. I used this opportunity to move away from Pennsylvania and explore world-wide tennis.
I found an opportunity in Sri Lanka to both teach 3rd grade (a story for another time) and tennis at the Columbo Swim Club adjacent to the Indian Ocean. Two years and many tennis lessons and life experiences later, I moved to Singapore for a short stint teaching at the Singapore Island Country Club.
Back in the U.S. I applied for and got the position of manager/director for Central Park’s tennis concession. New York City is not the easiest town for the tennis lifestyle but from Easter until Thanksgiving the Central Park clay courts were a tennis person’s paradise. The second winter there and the inevitable tennis lifestyle slow down made the decision to come to Los Angeles in January almost a no-brainer. If it didn’t work out, Central Park would be back open in April.
A one-week blitz of tennis clubs in Los Angeles resulted in my finding six courts on the roof of a building in downtown Los Angeles. The courts were leased to a YMCA that, at the time, didn’t have the resources to develop a tennis program.
They offered me a Tennis Director position and I proudly ran that club for 28 years. The YMCA last use of the courts on June 30, 2017 after the sale of the building.
“Tennis. It’s a Lifestyle” continues to live on to this day. I enjoy providing a mix of tennis lessons, tennis playing, adult camps, a bi-weekly tennis newsletter and always looking for opportunities to get others involved in the sport.
What started as gift of a Tad Imperial racquet has enabled me to meet the woman who became my wife and to travel around the world making a living with tennis.
Of course, tennis is not just a sport, but rather also a mechanism for making countless lifelong friends. I’m happy to report that, the life I am leading at 70 closely resembles my life at 25. Here’s to the Tennis Lifestyle!