Anyone who has ever played, watched, or read about tennis knows Vic Braden. As a coach, author and media personality, Braden has entertained and educated the tennis-playing public for close to 40 years.
Vic is an old friend, the coach of the masses who symphathises with the plight of the recreational player. Unlike many of today's experts, who teach us how to "play like the pros," Braden tells it like it is.
He is not a former Wimbeldon Champion telling us how to win at the All England Club when our biggest concern is simply straightening out our service toss. He knows that the vast majority of us are not elite athletes competing for millions of dollars, but rather mere mortals playing for fun.
He is one of us. Short and stout, (his love of jelly donuts is legendary), it's easy to imagine Braden playing along side of us in our weekly league.
Born in Monroe, Michigan in 1929, Braden was a talented athlete as a child and enjoyed the usual sports, baseball, football and basketball. He happened upon tennis quite by accident.
"I was caught in a theft," recalls Vic. "I was stealing tennis balls on my way to the football field and a guy named Lawrence Alto, who I later dedicated one of my books to, caught me. He told me that I was either going to learn to play tennis or go to jail for theft. So I started. I was eleven years old, liked it, and have been with it ever since."
Braden went on to become an accomplished junior player, once ranked as high as 25th in the country. He later played for Kalamazoo College, graduating in 1951.
Out in the "real world," Braden kept his hand in sports as the head tennis and assistant basketball coaches at the University of Toledo from 1952-55. He also continued his education with ten years of graduate school, eventually becoming a licensed psychologist.
From 1954-61 Braden wet his feet in the business aspect of sports as he became the Assistant Manager of the Professional Tennis Tour and promoted the Jack Kramer vs Pancho Gonzales tour in 1954.
In the mid sixties Braden joined the management team of the George MacCall group which featured players such as Gonzales, Rosewall, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Ann Jones.
Though Braden enjoyed promoting the game and running tournaments, his true passion was teaching and from 1961-72 he was the Manager and Tennis Professional at the Jack Kramer Tennis Club in California.
While at the Kramer Club, Braden introduced hundreds of people to tennis and produced more ranked juniors in Southern Ca. than any other club in the area. Champion Tracy Austin and former touring pros Elliot Teltscher and Jim Pugh were among those who took their first lessons from Vic.
In 1972 Braden ventured out on his own and founded the Vic Braden Tennis College in Rancho Bernado, California. The rest, as they say is history.
Over the next 25 years Vic became a familiar face on television sets around the world. With his insightful commentary and witty dialogue, Braden quickly became a media favorite.
In addition to his work as a commentator, Braden also produced educational television specials for both children and adults on PBS and ESPN. He also appeared on such shows as the Today show, Good Morning America, Nightline, 20/20 and even Hollywood squares.
As an instructor, commentator and author Braden became know as "the world's tennis coach." As his celebrity grew, Braden always stayed true to his first love, the club players.
"My main interest has always lied with the masses," says Vic, "because if you don't have the masses, you don't have a game." "You've got to take care of the C and D players because they are the ones who attend professional matches, buy the clothing and equipment and watch the game on television."
"Unfortunately, I think that a lot of the players today have forgotten this. Without the support of the recreational players I guarantee you, the pros are going to be out on the golf course or somewhere trying to teach the game because they're not going to make the big money they're now getting."
Through the years, Braden, in an effort to provide as much information to his students as possible, has tirelessly researched the game. He has meticulously broken tennis down to it's most minute areas, and brought the results to the public via over 20 videos, 5 books and countless seminars around the world.
Braden's thirst for knowledge, as well as an overabundance of energy, has led him to branch out into other areas as well. A few of Braden's recent projects include:
Co-founding the Coto Research Center where he, along with Dr. Gideon Ariel, has spent a great deal of time studying human movement in 40 different sports.
The list is never-ending as the quest for insight continues to fuel Braden's fire and, at age 68, he shows no sign of slowing down. He still trains a few junior players and does the occasional on-court demonstration. He recently sold his tennis college in California, though he will retain an on-site research center, and opened one in Kissimee, Fla.
He has also done extensive research on the correlation between an individuals intellectual level and their success in sports and has found evidence to support the contention that some people are genetically pre-disposed to becoming a champion.
Recently, Braden has been working with Jon Niednagel, the founder of brain typing, exploring the field of relating personality to ones motor skills. The two produced a video titled "Who Am I, Who
Are You?" which is now circulating throughout the world. In addition, Braden is working with two other psychologists in an attempt to help tennis players who suffer from Performance Anxiety.
A few months ago, along with two other experts in the field, Braden conducted a seminar titled Coaches at Risk in which he examined coaching abuse in athletics in an attempt to alert the public and provide assistance for troubled coaches.
With no plans to ever retire, Braden will continue to spread the tennis gospel. "My goal before I die," says Vic, "is to break tennis down into a tremendous number of disciplines so that eventually, people will be able to get very good information on any aspect of this wonderful game so that when they get involved, they can stay in it for a lifetime."
Through his years of research of both the physical and psychological aspects of tennis, Vic Braden has not only introduced millions to the game, he has provided us with a deeper insight into why we perform and behave as we do, not only in a contest of athletics but in the ultimate game, the game of life.
REMINDER: If you know someone who's life has been impacted by the game of tennis, drop me a line using this form and perhaps we can feature them in an upcoming installment of "THOSE WHO LOVE THE GAME."