CONGRATULATIONS TO STEVE BEHRMAN!
I’m so excited for my friend and coach Steve Behrman! After 30 years, he has retired from being a full time USPTA Tennis Coach at the Muncie Northwest YMCA Tennis Center.
I might have been his very first tennis student when he arrived 30 years ago in Muncie. I remember immediately liking him because he had my same name. I grew up in the junior programs that Billy Richards and Jim Greiner put on, but it was when Steve came to town that things really changed for me.
I remember one of the first lessons…he brings me out to Court 4 and says “start hitting against this wall. How many can you hit in a row? Okay, how many can you hit in this square in a row?” Then he just left — probably to go eat a DQ Blizzard. I was thinking, “what kind of lesson is this?” But then there was a process that Steve followed… he put me on a path just for me. I was an early Guinea Pig of his… I think he was testing out new ways of getting the point across, like the time he taught me to not be afraid to be a volleyer. He literally BLASTED serves at me while I was at the net. I learned to love net play! Still, to this day when we play, he enjoys trying to peg the net player!
I’ll never forget the transition he put me through to go from a two-handed backhand to one. It seemed I was the only junior player within 100 miles with a one-handed backhand (which Steve had, and many of my favorite pros had — which I loved).
Remember the old yellow Suburu of yours in the 80’s? I was a daily passenger in the back of that beast on our travels to Indy tennis programs in the summer. Daily. Without fail. Steve was there for so many as we searched for new opponents and experiences.
Tennis is so difficult and it’s so different than other sports. For example, you have to succeed every time you hit the ball or you lose, and the good ones you hit before… are often forgotten. Yep, frustration can be the norm. The scoring of tennis? Try explaining it to a new player — it’s not so easy, and it’s like the scoring is set up to make you feel like it’s life or death at nearly every moment. Sure the rules are pretty simple, but the game is complex. You learn that very quickly. It’s almost like playing the guitar (which I do)…guitar is one of the easiest instruments to play, but one of the hardest to play well.
With tennis there’s another unique dynamic — the opponent. In this sport you want to get in their heads, it’s combative, lonely, intense, physical, and and it’s fast. You get in shape to play tennis, not the other way around. All this adds up to short careers or big ups and downs in your match play. And lastly, you’re often isolated and without a coach. And it’s here that I came to really value the lessons of my coach. When you’re all alone trying to maintain focus, adjusting, trying to no longer think fundamentals, but strategy it’s here where you value the lessons most from a trusted coach. For me, that was Steve Behrman. Steve broke down the difficult parts of the game and put it in terms that made sense to me.
I was never an ATP caliber player. I had too many other interests when I was younger and I wish I had focused on my tennis game more. That’s the past. Steve didn’t judge that of me. Instead he recognized in me the ability and joy I found in teaching others. So, he encouraged and trained me to get my USPTA license. That was a big deal for me and I wouldn’t have passed that without Steve’s mentoring.
I’ll finish with this… Steve knew of me and thousands after me, that I didn’t have to be an ATP player to learn from this awesome sport. I can still hear him pounding in me a core discipline — a work ethic that I carry inside to this day. To get to “A” you have to give up “B” and sacrifice “C” for “X” amount of time, over and over. At a higher level of play, this sport demands certain things from you. I tasted what that was like, and I use that experience in my work, family, and recreational tennis life every day. He would say to me, “You can work “X” hard and be here in three years or you can work “Y” hard and be here in one. What are you gonna do, Steve?”
Regardless of the sport, a coach like Steve can change lives. Steve put thousands of hours into tennis fans old and young and he will be missed on the court. Congratulations on your retirement, Steve! This community was blessed to have your leadership, spirit, and direction.
Oh… when we play doubles this Tuesday… I’ll be ready… I’m still not afraid of the net, and now finally, I think I’m a bit faster than you! Look out!
Your student, colleague, and friend — Steve Slavin, Muncie, IN