Photo Credit: Michael Le Brecht II
Coach P.J. Nassar couldn't stay away from Jr. Team Tennis – from a player three years ago to becoming the team's coach, his New England team's berth into 2013 Nationals is sweet for the 20-year-old.
By Susan Dunham, special to USTA.com
The Jr. Team Tennis National Championships in 2013 showcase the best 18 & Under squads from all over the country in South Carolina. It’s a mix of feelings for teams as they represent their USTA sections at the event: happiness, pride, excitement. Yet there’s also the bittersweet goodbye at the end of play on Championship Sunday. For the graduating 18-year-olds, they know it’s the end of their time playing under the Jr. Team Tennis banner.
One recent graduate decided he hadn’t had enough of the Jr. Team Tennis experience. New role, same exhilaration. Meet coach Peter Nassar – “P.J.,” to his New England Intermediate team.
“When I was younger I mostly only played in the summer and in middle school and high school I started playing tournaments with USTA leagues and eventually [Jr. Team Tennis], which got me interested in playing tennis in college, and now I’m coaching,” said the 20-year-old Nassar. “It’s pretty cool.”
Three years ago, Nassar was a member of the team he currently coaches, losing a heartbreaker at Sectionals. Around the time of his final match, his coach brought up the idea of him taking over the team.
“At first, I was very hesitant,” said Nassar.” I wasn’t sure if I would know what to do, but It’s worked out, and this year we’re at Nationals for the first time. So things came together.”
Nassar is also currently a team captain for his Western New England University men’s tennis team in Springfield, Mass., where he also plays with the same team format implemented in Jr. Team Tennis.
“The fact that I play the same setup as the players I coach really helps,” said Nassar. “Yesterday, we had some tough matches but I was able to motivate them and get us back in the right mindset – the fact that we’re starting from scratch, 0-0, even – anything can happen.”
The college advantage doesn’t end there. His players also get to see where the sport of tennis can take them once they move on from Jr. Team Tennis.
“I’m always talking to them about how they can keep tennis in their lives,” said Nassar. “Some of them will play in college and keep playing leagues, but really I’m trying to convince them to go into coaching! Tennis really is a sport you can play forever. Just because they’re too old for this tournament by no means they have to give it up.”