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Tennis Teacher "Pro"-file: Marcelo Gouts of Orlando

February 24, 2011 10:10 AM
gouts-marcelo-webby Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

If innovation and keeping things fresh is the key to a successful tennis teaching venture, then Orlando's Marcelo Gouts should hold classes on the subject.
 
Oh wait, he already does.

The founder of MG Tennis in 1986 and the holder of a USPTA Professional-1 certification, Gouts has since been spreading the tennis gospel around Orlando and surrounding counties through establishing or running operations at more than six facilities/sites. He has held workshops on activities from the new 10 and Under Tennis featuring the QuickStart play format to Cardio Tennis for instructors, and last year hosted a USTA League tennis welcoming event for new players that featured an on-site, on-air radio broadcast from Power 95.3. "Orlando's Hip Hop leader" from the Power 95.3 Power Bus broadcasted live for two hours to Orlando residents from the Lake Cane Tennis Center.
 
"I've known Marcelo to be a full supporter of the USTA Jr. Team Tennis program since the early '90s when I used to coordinate the program," said USTA Florida Associate Executive Director Andy McFarland. "Marcelo has always been a strong ally of USTA programs, tournaments and special events as he hosts many of those at the facilities he manages. We'd love to clone multiple Marcelos around the state for what he brings to the game of tennis in his community."

A proud supporter of grassroots tennis in the Orlando area, Gouts says getting young children involved in a fun (as opposed to high-performance drills and lessons) format such as 10 and Under Tennis is just an extension of the USTA Jr. Team Tennis program that he has been a long-time supporter of.

"We have been involved with Jr. Team Tennis since back in the early days, I would say for the last 15 years," Gouts said. "There they get the social aspect of it and the teamwork. It is good to get them working together and supporting each other as they will have to do when they get to playing for a high school team and for college."

Gouts says that in addition to the team and social aspect, Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) provides children with both singles and doubles opportunities to improve their game.

"You also promote playing doubles on a regular basis, which helps you develop key strokes like the volley and returning serve, so there are a lot of plusses," Gouts says of the JTT league, which runs almost year-round in some areas of Florida, and 2-3 mini-seasons in others.

A junior player in Argentina, Gouts says he came to the U.S. to pursue a career as a teaching pro.

"What attracted me to the game of tennis is the ability to be there on your own, making decisions, and all the challenging aspects of the game -- the physical part, the mental, it was love at first sight, or first 'hit,'" Gouts said. "I saw it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

As U.S. professional tennis manages through a down period, with no players stepping up to join the Williams sisters or Andy Roddick in the Top 10, Gouts says that will change, especially with the introduction of 10 and Under Tennis bringing more kids into the game, and keeping them there in a fun environment with the easier-to-use child-scaled racquets, balls and nets, and with the continued rise of USTA Adult League play.

"A lot of people are coming back to the sport, finding it is a game that provides great satisfaction through Jr. Team Tennis and USTA Leagues and tournaments, you can get involved at any skill level," Gouts says. "Even for beginning players there is a playing component. People like opportunities to compete, and as long as we provide opportunities to compete, we're going to see the game growing...Tennis at the professional level is going through an era, and it will come back."

In the meantime Gouts says he is concentrating on innovations such as Cardio Tennis, and initiatives such as bringing new adults into the game and children with 10 and Under Tennis.

"Cardio Tennis has proved tremendously popular in the Northeast, but it's still in its infancy in Central Florida," says Gouts, who holds certification courses for Cardio Tennis teachers at his Lake Cane center. "I've seen 10 and Under Tennis really grow, people are welcoming the idea of having facilities with the painted QuickStart lines. It is often the parents who come over and say, 'My child is having a good time playing QuickStart' and they are putting pressure on the teaching professionals to join the effort in developing players this way. I think 10 and Under Tennis is developing ultimately into the product we all dream about, which can keep players age 6, 7, 8, in the game to the point where they can develop into a tournament player, then a full-court player by age 11 or 12. It is also going to help us retain players longer and not lose them to other sports, so we're going to see more talented players coming through the ranks."

Gouts has also taken advantage of numerous USTA Florida "Share the Love" grants, spreading 10 and Under Tennis to local schools and other facilities, most recently submitting and receiving a grant to expand tennis at Lake Mary Preparatory school, a preK-12 school in Orlando adjacent to the Lake Mary Sports Complex.

He ultimately sees a pipeline of 10 and Under Tennis children feeding into Jr. Team Tennis and middle school tennis, into high school and high school JV (junior varsity) leagues, and ultimately into college tennis, college club-level tennis [USTA Tennis on Campus], and the "sport of a lifetime" played out in adult leagues and tournaments, which extend to the seniors and even 90s age groups.

"There are a lot of benefits the USTA brings to teaching professionals," Gouts says. "For over 20 years I have seen the benefits they have brought up into my industry. I wouldn't have been able to develop my tournament training program if it wasn't for the USTA having a ranking system. There wouldn't be players that were motivated, like there wouldn't be players competing in our Jr. Team Tennis to win regionals and go to the Florida Section tournament and possibly qualify for the national tournament. Our weekends would be pretty empty if the USTA didn't organize leagues and tournaments. I see the benefits of the partnership and am very proud of it and proud to be a teaching professional."

 
 

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