By K.J. WEBB
Editor at Large
MATCH PLAY: Trent Tucker, front center, with students of the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy at The Tulsa Grand Health and Racquet Club.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
The Tulsa Grand Health and Racquet Club, located at 3030 E. 91st St., offers the only full service fitness center and tennis club in the state. The Grand is home to the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy, which was recently certified by the United States Tennis Association () as one of only four regional training facilities in the nation, and the only one in Oklahoma.
Staffed by tennis pros, the academy offers tennis clinics, private lessons, home school training for players who want to train six to eight hours per day, and one-on-one mental training.
According to Academy Director Trent Tucker, the academy started at the Grand in 2001 and was designed to be the first tennis program in Oklahoma to offer full-service academy style training. It has been extremely successful in producing competitive players.
Tucker notes that since the academy started in 2001 over 50 Missouri Valley Championships have been won.
Tucker’s Tennis Academy has sent over 30 players on to play in college and has helped secure over $100,000 in scholarships. Academy players have gone on to attend universities such as Duke, Cornell, Trinity, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Arkansas, Washington–St. Louis and Princeton.
According to Tucker, prior to opening the academy, the tennis culture in Oklahoma was very much an after school program mentality with no traveling coaches and limited training hours per week. Tucker says, “Our approach was to offer players and parents an opportunity to train 15-30 hours per week if they wanted. We only ask they commit from four to six hours per week.”
A minimum of four to six hours is necessary because tennis is a repetition sport and a certain amount of time per week is required in order to develop and improve skills. “Oklahoma kids were being outworked by kids in other states of equal ability so we challenged our parents and kids to put in the necessary time, and provide coaches for tournament travel,” says Tucker.
It soon became apparent that Oklahoma was producing players equal to those in Florida and Texas. One example is Spencer Papa from Oklahoma City, an academy home-schooled player, who was number one in the country in the under-12s. Spencer Papa now lives full time in Florida and trains at the National Center in Boca Raton. “Once Spencer reached number one, I knew we could do it and that our training formula worked. Proof is in the pudding and we had the results,” Tucker says.
As the academy got off the ground Tucker focused on developing a relationship with the , the national governing body for tennis. The oversees all player development for top juniors and professionals. “Once we had players competing on a top national level the began to take notice of us,” says Tucker. It was at this time that the was rolling out its Regional Training Center program (). The is designed to complement the USTA’s three national training centers located in Florida, California and New York City. After a rigorous screening process, the selected the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy to host four of the six camps for the entire Missouri Valley (Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska).
Tucker says, “The philosophy is to train the region’s best coaches to follow a very specific system to help identify the best talent, and guide them in the direction to help them stay on a path to play college or professional tennis.” Each camp weeds out players based on video analysis of strokes and match play until the final group is selected and has a chance to visit a National Center.
“The program requires that my academy follow the system. Therefore, my staff is fully-trained on the system. Additionally, we’ve made a serious investment in the program buying the necessary equipment.” Tucker’s Tennis Academy is the only tennis program in the state following the guidelines to develop six to 12 year-old players in its program called QuickStart. “This is the most important time to teach style and have a kid fall in love with tennis. The new ball and net requirements (softer balls and lower nets) makes tennis like soccer or tee-ball, making it easier for young players to feel successful and stay in the game.”
The is fully committed to the QuickStart program and is investing millions of dollars to ensure its success. Tucker says, “Every dollar we raise for this program, up to $32,000, will be matched by the . One hundred percent of the money goes to helping players in our program learn and love the game.”
Tucker’s approach, combined with the system, is working and producing admirable results. Current player rankings at the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy are: in the 12’s national rankings Zeke Clark is 8th, Caitlin Calkins is 9th and William Genesen is 35th. In the 14’s national rankings Olivia Hauger is 15th and Jackson Fine is 40th. Last year Trent Tucker’s Tennis Academy graduated a record eight players to play Division 1 tennis.
For more information about the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy, visit www.grandhealthandracquet.com or call 918-298-9500. To support the tennis program with a donation, please contact Trent Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org