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TENNIS INTERVIEWS

Interview with Scott Mitchell, Head Tennis Professional at Charlotte Country Club in North Carolina

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by Andre Smith

Scott Mitchell, a former #1 mixed doubles player in the U.S. is currently the Head Tennis Professional at Charlotte Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2009 Charlotte Country Club was rated one of the top 14 Country Clubs in U.S.

Scott is certified at the highest level by both the USPTA and the PTR as well as being a National Tester and Clinician for the PTR. Scott has been nominated for many awards over his career and 2009 is no exception as he was awarded the PTR Clinician of the Year award.

He has also been nominated in recent years for the 2010 USPTA Southern Professional of the Year, 2007 USPTA North Carolina Professional of the Year and 2007 PTR Professional of the Year, 2005 USTA Georgian Professional of the Year and many other great awards.

He is also a certified referee and umpire by the USTA. Scott has achieved various recognitions such as PTR Clinician of the Year 2009, Nominated USPTA Southern Pro of the Year 2010, Nominated USPTA North Carolina Pro of Year 2007, Nominated PTR Pro of Year 2007, Nominated USTA Georgia Pro of Year 2005.

He has been affiliated with some of the best tennis organizations across the country such as USPTA- P1, PTR 5A-National Tester and Clinician, USTA Level 1 Successful Coaching, USTA Official Umpire/ Referee, Kids Growing Kids-PTR, Evolve 9- Growing Kids Through Tennis.

He has been sponsored by Nike- 2003-2008 and Head/ Penn Racquet Sports-Advisory Staff 1991-present. For many years Scott has provided tennis tips and articles for countless magazines, CD’s, books and websites. Starting at the beginning of 2009 Scott began a relationship with Tennis View Magazine as an editorial contributor providing tennis tips and articles for this brand new and exciting tennis magazine.

The magazine was awarded one the "hottest magazine launches of 2008". Scott has developed an great reputation in the tennis industry that he has been asked to participate in Workshops or presentations all throughout the United States and abroad.
So without further hesitation here is Scott Mitchell… Andre C.

Smith: Scott, tell us about you (as a person and as a tennis coach/instructor)? I noticed that you moved from Indiana to North Carolina by way of Georgia, was it due to tennis?
Scott Mitchell: Yes, I played my collegiate tennis at Indiana University and after graduating moved to South Carolina to work for Dennis Van der Meer.

It was an amazing experience working and learning for one of the greatest tennis minds ever. I learned so much working with adults, juniors, beginners to tour players. After many years there I was offered the Director of Tennis position at a club in Atlanta.

Atlanta was another great experience as it is such a huge tennis town. Everyone, it seems, in Atlanta plays tennis. After 10 years of early mornings and very, very late nights of teaching and coaching it was time to make a change.

In Atlanta it was not uncommon to be coaching until long after 9 or 10 pm, so I was in need of a change. Charlotte Country Club was a great opportunity at one of the top country clubs in the U.S. Once my wife and I came for a visit and saw the club, met the staff and the General Manager, it wasn’t long before we knew that this was the right place for us.

Scott’s playing background is extensive with being one of the top junior players in the Western section, Indiana State High School Singles Finals, High School Athlete of the Week award a record 9 times, Indiana University- Men's Tennis, #1 Nationally ranked Husband/ Wife Open Mixed 2006, #2 Nationally ranked Husband/ Wife Open Mixed 2007, #1 Southern ranked Husband/ Wife Open Mixed 2006, #1 Southern ranked Husband/ Wife Open Mixed 2007 Andre C.

Smith: What got you into tennis? Who were your tennis favorites as you were growing up?
Scott Mitchell: I started tennis at a very young age. Not necessarily very seriously but camps and group lessons.

My parents played recreationally before we were born and then a little afterwards so they were the ones who introduced us to the game. My parents had a friend that was a teaching pro and she would give my brother and I tennis lessons from time to time.

As I got older, and not much taller the sports I played became sports that size wasn’t that big of a deal. Soccer, tennis and swimming and diving became the three sports I kept doing into my early teens. When I was growing up the average age of a tennis player was well below six feet tall.

Not like these days where the height is well above six feet. As I moved through my teens and especially in high school I realized tennis was the one sport I loved the most. I could play pretty well and being athletic helped me overcome some of my height issues.

It was something I loved to play, as often as possible. I would get up early in the morning and play and would be on the court until the sun went down. I quickly realized it was a sport that I wanted to be involved with in some form as a career.

Growing up I followed Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and a lot of the other characters that really helped build tennis in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It was a great time being a little kid growing up watching tennis.

You’d watch some of the great Borg v. McEnroe matches and would be so excited after the match you’d want to go out and play. It was a ton of fun and then now, growing up seeing one, if not the best player of all time in Roger Federer, what a blessing it has been in my lifetime to see this.

Andre C. Smith: Did you play high school tennis? What was the highest position on team that you accomplished? What did you get out of playing in a team setting such as high school tennis? I noticed that you went to Indiana University, did you play college tennis? Did you play all four years?
Scott Mitchell: High school was a ton of fun as it is always fun playing on a team.

I played number two my freshman year and then number one the last three years. We did extremely well during my years there and made it to regional’s I believe almost every year if not every year. We always had pretty strong teams with most of the players playing year round.

One of our players Jon Wertheim now rights for Sports Illustrated and you seen him quiet often on TV during tournaments. Yes, I ended my college career at Indiana University and joining a team that had some amazing players and even better friends.

Most of them I still stay in contact today. We were always in the top 3 or 4 in the Big Ten and top 20 or 30 in the country. I love IU and still try and make it back to visit at least once or twice a year. Andre C. Smith: As you look back in those days of high school tennis (and possibly college tennis), what would you suggest to the high school tennis players now? And for those looking at going into Professional Tennis whether they want to teach, coach, or play on the circuit?
Scott Mitchell: The thing I would tell anyone going into any profession is to learn, listen to people who have been there and to work hard.

I see a lot of times in this profession as well as others, where the just graduated person feels they already know everything. To this day I don’t know enough and always try and learn and listen from others to try and make myself a better pro, teacher, coach and player.

I don’t know it all and never will but I take a little information from so many people and try and incorporate that into my philosophy. When it comes to players going to college, playing junior tournaments or heading on tour, they need to work hard and never give up no matter what someone may say.

It is easy for people to say you aren’t good enough or you won’t make it. So you must believe in yourself and surround yourself with people that believe in you too. Then work hard and enjoy what you are doing. Andre C.

Smith: I noticed that you have taught tennis at several different types of facilities, what have you taken from the public facilities to the private facilities? Do you see much difference in the way the facilities are run?
Scott Mitchell: I have been blessed to have work in so many different facets of the tennis industry.

I have worked in sales and marketing and obviously on the court. I have worked in resort tennis, public and private clubs and they are all great but very different experiences. Resort tennis is great because you see so many new and great people on a daily basis.

The down side is that you don’t see them on a daily basis so you don’t really get time to work with them in depth and get to see them improve. Public facilities are great and you are designing and implementing programs for a community not just a select group but a wide variety of people and tennis interests.

It is a ton of fun as you can really think outside the box and open up what you can do. The down side is that it can spread you thin and sometimes you really don’t get great at anything but you are good at a lot of things.

Private facilities have been my most fun as it is a very captivated, intimate group of people. You really get to know them and their families and they get to know you. The members at my current club are the absolute most amazing people that I have ever been around.

You really get to spend time teaching the entire family and getting to know them, work with them and seeing them in more of a “home” environment. At Charlotte Country Club we are trying to make Raving Fans out of our members and their guest each and every day they come through our gates.

We pride ourselves on our customer service which I believe so many people and companies have lost sight of. I know our club does an amazing job in that area and I am so glad to be around the staff that I am each and every day.

I continue to learn from them and them from me on a daily basis. We do our best to do the little things for our members and their guests so that when they leave, they may not be able to remember what we said, but they will remember how they were treated.

Most recently Scott has designed and implemented a new junior tennis format at his club that has increased participation for the 4-6 years old by 75% and the 7 and up age group by 57%. Andre C.

Smith: Do you teach a lot of youth at the facility that you teach at? In regards to players (youth) I have noticed that a lot of them have created a sense of banging the ball and the placement/touch game has slowly disappeared.

How have you overcome this in your teaching methods?
Scott Mitchell: We do have quite a few junior players from ages 4-14 mostly. The coaching method that seems to be taught a lot, especially at some of the academies in the Southeast is to hit the ball harder.

If it doesn’t go in hit it harder and eventually it will. I think this philosophy is nuts. I really do. There will be a handful of players that will excel in this type of program but most will not. Without going into too much detail there are a ton of great things I do with junior players that will work on touch, placement and movement in an exciting way.

The kids may not even think they are working on these things sometimes they are having so much fun. Using different types of balls from the low compression balls to the foam balls and others can work on touch, spins and control.

Playing mini tennis games will work on touch, different spins and angles around the court. I just tell coaches to be creative and don’t forget to work in area around the entire court, not just the baseline hitting it hard.

Scott’s coaching background is extensive as he has won a National Championship as an assistant coach at Georgia Perimeter College. He also coached the GPC #1 player to a win over then NCAA #1, has been a USTA National Zonal Coach working with many of the nations top boys and girls 15 and 16 year olds, he has coached over 30 league champions and continues to work with tennis players of all ages and levels.

As a coach Scott Mitchell has made a tremendous impact on tennis. He has been Selected to USTA High Performance Program, Head Tennis Professional- Charlotte Country Club, USTA National Zonal Coach, Head Coach/ Asst. Coach- Georgia Perimeter College, 4 straight National Championships, Coached #1 at GPC to win over #1 in NCAA (Goffi), Coached more than 30 USTA or ALTA league champions. Andre C.

Smith: As a coach in Perimeter College Tennis in Georgia what do you find is your philosophy in approaching coaching? Do you stay in touch with any of the students that you coached at Perimeter College? And have any of them gone onto the Pro Circuit? Scott Mitchell: College coaching was a different experience for me and not the kind of lifestyle that excited me.

It is an all day, every day, year round job. Not just coaching, but off the court issues and all the other things that go along with college coaching. It just wasn’t for me. I had a great time and would value that experience so much and I am so thankful that I was given that opportunity.

My college coaching philosophy is the same as the one I use today which is I expect my players to work hard and I want practices to be quality practices not based on quantity or long practices. I do have an agenda and a structured idea of the way I want a practice or a lesson to run but I always want feedback from my players.

If there is something that they want or need to work on then I am very willing to adapt to fill those needs. I do stay in contact with most of them and they are all doing different things in life. Some are coaching as well and others have gone onto other professions.

Many of them played Davis Cup for their countries during and after college with a few that tried their hand at the tour for a few years. Each one of them were great players but even better people. They were a ton of fun to be around.

Andre C. Smith: Besides teaching tennis do you get a chance to play in tournaments or recreational tennis at all? And if so how much does your schedule allow you to play?
Scott Mitchell: My playing days have been put on hold for a few years now.

We have a 21 month old son who takes every off the court minute I have. I can’t wait to get home in the evenings and on some weekends and spend with my wife and son. I think we are approaching 3 years now since I have played in a tournament.

I don’t spend much time at all practicing these days, but have spent the last few weeks hitting with a former women’s collegiate player that is thinking of trying the tour. This has been a ton of fun but also shown me how out of shape I am.

I have played in several exhibitions and pro am events but without hitting much it sometimes isn’t always pretty. At the moment, more times than not it is a bit frustrating but always a ton of fun.
Scot Mitchell has devoted his time to many events within the tennis industry for the development of youth and other notable causes some of those events and causes are Cystic Fibrosis event committee, Burnette Nobels Memorial- Police killed in the line of duty, Rally for the Cure, Bosom Buddies, Brighter Future Foundation- Vahaly, Roddick and more, USTA Tennis in the Parks- Atlanta, USTA Southern Section Conference-Atlanta Pro Rep 2004, Tennis Month-Jamaica, certification testing for local pros. Andre C.

Smith: Well, in closing can you tell me what is on the horizon for Scott Mitchell?
Scott Mitchell: These next few months will keep me very busy with some exciting new projects. I still am doing a ton of writing for some great magazine such as Tennis View, Centre Court and Tennis World to name a few.

I have also been doing some radio shows and I am in the process of putting together my first DVD. There are a few other projects that involve TV that I am not yet allowed to speak about but hope to be able to let everyone know very soon.

Along with these fun projects I still look forward to spending most of my time on the court with my members and all my free time with my amazing family. I would like to thank Scott Mitchell for taking a moment out of his busy schedule to let us know a little about what makes Scott Mitchell the man he is.
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