Dave Higaki: Living the Life of Tennis
NorCal Staff | May 1, 2017
Life is tennis and tennis is life. At least, that’s the way it seems when you meet one of USTA NorCal’s newest Hall of Fame inductees. In fact, if you have been to a USTA NorCal event, you probably know Dave Higaki.
Dave, currently the Executive Director of East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring (EPATT), exemplifies what it means to live the tennis life. He began at an early age picking up a racket while he watched his mother play the game. Dave played throughout his high school career at Palo Alto’s Gunn High School. He continued to hone his tennis skills during his college years at Menlo College where he earned his B.A. in 1989. But, if you know Dave, playing tennis wasn’t enough.
While in college he worked at the Nike Tennis Camps at Stanford. There he worked with Dick and Anne Gould, renowned university coaches, who set him up on a lifelong love of coaching.
He also met Jim Triolo, USPTA Teaching Pro, and Nick Carter, top-level amateur champion (Hall of Fame 1993), from Court Works Youth Tennis. “Meeting Dick, Anne, Jim and Nick had a profound effect on my approach to coaching,” Dave said.
After earning his college degree, Dave joined Bill Jacobson, Hall of Fame 2015, at CompuTennis, as a statistician. According to Dave, focusing on statistics provided a unique perspective on the game. He learned about the importance of strategy and how to interpret what he saw on the court. This expanded understanding, once again, influenced how he coaches the game today. “I learned to appreciate the numbers in sports long before they became a daily conversation,” he said. “I am thankful that I could understand and teach about game analytics early on.” While at CompuTennis, Dave attended matches at Wimbledon and other ATP and WTA tournaments. He provided stats for HBO and Fox Sports programs. In 1994, Venus Williams’ coach, Rick Macci, hired the company to do her stats for her pro debut at the Bank of the West Classic.
Dave continued to coach privately as well, working under Chris Bradley at Alpine Hills Tennis and Swimming Club in Portola Valley. “I had the pleasure to work with some higher-performance juniors like James Pade, who ranked nationally and played for Stanford. I worked with him for eight years, from 12 to 20 years old.” Dave also worked with top NorCal Junior and Cal player, Lisa Swiernik, and with Iwalani McCalla, after she graduated UCLA when she was starting out on the pro tour.
At Alpine, Dave met Stanford All-American Jeff Arons who founded East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring (EPATT) Program. Jeff invited Dave to join him in his quest to help youth through academics, tennis and parent education. That was 1994. In addition to working at Alpine, he had the opportunity to coach University of Michigan graduate, Grady Burnett. “I was his traveling coach and hitting partner on the tour,” Dave said. “We traveled 20 weeks a year and then I’d work with EPATT in between.”
By 1998, Dave earned his place as the EPATT Executive Director. At EPATT, he built an excellent team whom he credits for the organization’s success and proudly states that EPATT has become a national model for tennis and education programs. “I’m proud that EPATT has influenced many programs around the country. We are most proud that EPATT’s influence is for the family, not just the students. We are strong advocates for parent education too.”
In 2008, EPATT was named the nation’s #1 after-school tennis and tutoring program by First Serve. In 2016, EPATT received Stanford University’s first “Community Partnership Legacy Award” in recognition of its continued initiative, leadership and involvement in efforts that benefit the overall community.
The awards are not only for EPATT. In 1997, Dave received the USTA NorCal Fred Earle Award for his contributions to the growth of tennis as a teaching professional. In 2011, he received the NorCal Diversity Icon Award and the USTA Foundation Judy Levering Leadership Award.
All said, Dave is not finished. He is currently serving his second term as Vice-Chair for the National Junior Tennis League’s National Committee and was recently named to the USTA Foundation’s Advisory Committee. He is an advocate for tennis facilities in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, has written forTennis Match Magazine and is a member of the Hispanic Engagement Advisory Group.