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Missouri Valley / St. Louis

Gruno Strings Together Tennis And Music Career

Jamie Hansen | August 26, 2020

Tennis has many similarities to being a touring musician. Lessons to be drawn, if you will. Who knew?


Brent Gruno did.


The pro at Sunset Tennis Center has seen lots of things. For his work in USTA programming, he is selected as a USTA Missouri Valley Gold Star Award winner. The award recognizes those who support and grow the game.


While tennis is a love of Gruno’s, it is not the only area at which he excels. He has also been a touring musician. He rocks a harmony on the bass guitar and can carry a tune. Lessons from being in a band translate while on a tennis court.


“Music helped me focus and deal with many situations that relate to tennis,” he said. “Being able to perform with people watching, maybe not everyone loving you. Also trying to perform your best in situations that don't always work out.”


“I love travelling and seeing different parts of the country. Touring was one of the highlights. It is very similar to tennis when you are playing different locations and meeting new people.”  


Gruno has been several different places in his tennis career – and his life. He grew up in Florida, where his interest in tennis piqued. He spent his collegiate career at Central Missouri and Jefferson College, where he finished as an All-American.


To think that his life in tennis started with a talented junior player hitting serves at him – literally - when he was a child is kind of crazy. Growing up, he also played baseball. He found later that he flourished in individual sports.


“There was this world-ranked junior in my neighborhood when I lived in Florida. He would hit serves and we would try to dodge them. I wanted to be able to serve like him,” Gruno said.


Thankfully, Gruno does not hit serves at youth he coaches! He began his career as a teaching pro at Sunset in 1997. He has been a teaching pro at clubs all across Missouri, Illinois and the Northeastern United States. He has since returned to Sunset in 2019.


He also served as Head Tennis Coach at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. for one season. College coaching is a bit different from working with youth, Gruno said.


“College coaching was an incredible experience,” he said.  “You focus much more on working on the mind and conditioning, rather than developing strokes. Tennis teaches discipline that transitions into daily life.”

Discipline is sometimes forgotten in tennis. The mental game is another piece that often goes by the wayside in recreational tennis. If the mental part of your game is at one with your groundstrokes and everything else, you can get over the hump, Gruno said.


Above all else, Gruno said, is to just find a way. What does that mean? There is always a solution. You just have to find it. Easier said than done, perhaps.


“In a match you will go through different phases. Sometimes things are not working the way you want. The majority of points are won on someone else's mistake. Consistency is the foundation of building success. Start by being consistent. Once you get to that point, you will be able to start doing more.”


It also helps if you have a killer backhand, which Gruno does. He actually runs around his forehand! That stroke has paid dividends in his playing life, helping him and his team win the World Team Tennis (WTT) Championships in the past. The team lost in doubles, 6-0. Gruno then went on to win the singles, 6-0 after losing to the same player two days prior. The team sealed the deal in Mixed doubles with a 6-3 victory. It is his best playing memory.


Gruno is married and has three dogs, Khaly, Oscar and Rebel.


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