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Tennis: Elite status

Profile image for By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Steve Gamel / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Tennis director at Oakmont CC takes part in national program

In his younger days, Jason Goldman-Petri was an accomplished lacrosse player. The sport was and still is immensely popular in his hometown of Towson, Md., and for many fans, there is no substitute.

Yet we all go down different paths in life, be it by choice or fate. Goldman-Petri’s lacrosse days were cut short by concussions, and at 13 he turned to tennis. Tennis wasn’t as popular in Maryland, but Goldman-Petri took the path less traveled, eventually moved to Texas and now is earning national recognition.

The 27-year-old tennis director at Oakmont Country Club was invited to take part in the United States Tennis Association High-Performance Coaching Program, a certification offered only a few times a year to 25 of the top tennis coaches in the nation. Goldman-Petri completed the first part of the program during a weeklong class May 7-11 in Atlanta and could be certified within the next two months.

“It’s pretty exclusive and I’m excited about the opportunity,” Goldman-Petri said. “Tennis was treated more as a second thought growing up, but it became something I loved and my coaches were some of the best in the world. My skill ended up being tennis, and I wanted to make it my living.”

The USTA was established in 1881 and is the national governing body for tennis and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the sport’s growth on every level in the United States. According to Goldman-Petri, there are approximately 1,000 coaches nationally who have completed the program. One of them is North Texas women’s coach Sujay Lama.

Though he didn’t start playing until he was a teenager, Goldman-Petri was a fast learner and credits his early success to his instructors at The Tennis Institute at the Bare Hills Club in Baltimore. He went on to play at Johns Hopkins University, where he also coached part time.

Before moving to Texas with his wife, Amanda, and eventually getting hired at Oakmont, he spent five years at Stevenson University in Maryland, where he was the assistant coach for four years before being named head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams. In 2012 — his only year at the helm — both teams advanced to the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference playoffs for only the second time in the program’s history.

He is certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association and Professional Tennis Registry and was chosen for the latest program because a large number of his players obtained state or national junior rankings or were invited to join college varsity tennis programs.

Goldman-Petri listed 21 players on his USTA application, including former Guyer standout Sierra Smith (Dixie State University in Utah) and 13-year-olds Trinity Klamecki of Lewisville and Ali Ziehm of Little Elm.

“I haven’t seen him this excited before and he should be, because he’s earned it,” said Kelly Sessions, a 2009 Guyer graduate and Goldman-Petri’s assistant at Oakmont. “He has so much passion for tennis, and he does a great job being versatile and working with a broad range of players. He never gets tired; he’s the Energizer Bunny of tennis and I’ve learned so much from him.”

Goldman-Petri said he heard of the program five years ago from a former co-worker, Keith Puryear, who is now the women’s tennis coach at Navy, but hesitated to apply because he didn’t feel he had all the qualifications.

“He [Puryear] took part in it and I had always looked up to him and wanted to do the same,” he said. “I waited, though, because I wanted to make sure my player list was where it needed to be. A lot of college coaches get it [certified] easier because they are surrounded by those types of players all the time. I have that experience, but it’s a lot harder when you aren’t a college coach anymore.”

The incentives for a coach who makes it through the program go way beyond personal and professional growth. Goldman-Petri said he will have access to continued education and workshops through USTA and the use of the latest technology to help improve a player’s overall performance. He’ll also be considered among the top tier of coaches in America. He intends to use all of those benefits to help promote the sport and be a better coach.

He said he tried to soak up as much as possible from his time in Atlanta. The program included presentations on player growth and development, technical and tactical approaches, strength and conditioning drills and how to use video analysis to assess and fix common flaws.

His next steps include a month of highly detailed at-home assignments, including designing a player development program from scratch. He also must pass a sports science exam.

“They kept us very engaged and taught us a lot,” he said. “At one point or another, I’ve read up on every area there is on tennis instruction, but a lot of what USTA did was from a very unique perspective and in a lot of ways was very eye-opening. I can see value in some things that I learned long ago that I originally thought weren’t as important. I always knew I didn’t want to sit in an office all my life; I wanted to get outside and do what made me happy and help others. I knew one day I could take this to the next level.”