Teaching Provides New Perspective for Young Pros
WESTBOROUGH, MA – Prem Dave, a 16-year old senior at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, CT, is a competitive junior tennis player in New England. He has won New England junior Sectional Championships, Junior Team Tennis (JTT) State Championships and High School State Championships. For the past year however, he’s put his competitive tournament play on hold in order to focus on preparing for college next fall, where he hopes to study pre-med.
In the little free time Dave has had over the past year, he decided to pick up another hobby – teaching tennis. At just 15, his longtime coach and former tennis director at Weston Racquet Club in Weston, CT, Angelo Rossetti, put the teaching bug in his ear.
“Teaching was never something I really saw myself doing or really thought about doing before Angelo mentioned it. I knew I wanted to get a job at 16, so this was a great opportunity he gave me. Once I started, I found it interesting and now really enjoy it,” Dave said.
Rossetti spotted something in Dave from young that he sees in few other players, and it came to life when he was just nine years old.
Dave was competing in the JTT state championship match in the 12 and under division against an opponent who according to Rossetti, no one thought he could beat. Not only did Dave win the single-set match, 6-0, but that day he made a lasting impression on Rossetti.
“During the match, I told him he has to be more assertive and come to net more. He told me he could beat him without doing that, to which I said ‘yes, but I don’t want you to just win, I want you to become a better tennis player,’” Rossetti recalled. “So there I was negotiating with a nine-year-old in the finals of a tournament. I eventually said to him, ‘Why don’t we make a deal? After three shots, then you have to come to the net,’ and he did.”
“He has a very high tennis IQ and is so solid with his strategy and tactics, I could see him being a really good mental skills coach for tennis. I think he can really help improve the tennis IQ of other players,” he added.
At age 15, Rossetti offered Dave the opportunity to observe and assist him during weekend clinics. Though unpaid at the time, Dave took a liking to the job and was curious about turning it into something more. Rossetti recommended he get certified by the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which he did before he turned the minimum required age of 16. Once he turned 16 last December, he received his 11-17 teaching certification as well as a job working for Rossetti.
Dave coached on weekends at Weston, working mostly with high school-aged kids preparing to try out for their high school teams.
- Prem Dave (2nd to right) and doubles partner Taishi Hosokawa (2nd to left) pose with Angelo Rossetti (right) and his twin brother Ettore following their high school state championship in 2018.
- Molly Garcia and her father, Miguel.
- Prem with Rossetti (right) and International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO, Todd Martin.
- Prem Dave with Angelo Rossetti during his Junior Team Tennis days.
- Molly Garcia is a senior at Central Connecticut State University.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit however, he is no longer working at Weston but giving private lessons in his hometown of Norwalk and in the surrounding areas.
Once I started giving my own lessons, I had to figure out how to make it fun and make sure they were improving at the same time, which usually don’t go hand in hand,” Dave said. “I’ve learned that tennis doesn’t change between coach and player but the way each perceives the game is very different. As a player, you play to win, and the goal of a coach is to make you better as player.”
Dave’s coaching tendencies and style closely reflect his on-court playing style. He is soft spoken – not a pumped-up coach who is constantly yelling and in your face. He makes sure to carefully explain what he is teaching in order for his students to retain the message.
“I feel that explaining to students why they are doing what they are doing is something that’s really lacking (in the tennis world). You can have effective drills, but if kids don’t know why they’re doing them or how to apply them, it decreases motivation and what they learn ends after the drill ends. If they understand and know how to apply what they’re working on, that’s where I’ve seen the biggest change happen,” Dave said.
Dave has found a successful structure for his lessons, beginning with a warmup and feeding drills. He then transitions into creative games and finishes off with fitness-based exercises, which he says have made a huge difference in his own game.
“I never did fitness training until high school when I started running cross-country, but now it’s the most important part of tennis for me. It’s been a very positive influence and my game has changed dramatically, and I realized how important that was to incorporate in my lessons,” he said.
“Coaching has been a big learning experience for me,” Dave added. You can always tell someone to do something, but you won’t see instant results. If they’re doing what you told them and doing it right, that’s when you say, ‘good job, nice shot.’ You can’t expect anything more than what you ask them to do, even if it’s way out, as long as they’re doing right.”
That positive attitude and understanding personality is part of what has made Dave successful in his short time coaching. Molly Garcia, a 21-year-old senior at Central Connecticut State University, shares similar qualities, and she too, like Dave, became PTR certified at age 16.
Garcia is from Portland, CT and has volunteered and worked at the Tennis Center of Rocky Hill in Rocky Hill, CT from the time she was 12.
“I fell in love with teaching from the beginning and then kept doing it. I got my 10 and under certification when I was 16 and then got my 11-17 certification the next summer,” she said.
Rossetti, who recently signed on as the Director of Racquet Sports at Rocky Hill, had high praise for Garcia in the short time he’s known her.
“I’ve known Molly since September 1st, and what I’ve seen is she’s always eager to get on the court and has a very good energy about her,” Rossetti said. “She really cares about and engages with the students, and eye contact is so big. Being a tennis professional means you have to be a people person, and it starts with those things. She’s really good, especially with younger children, so I see her doing really well for our industry,”
Garcia hopes to continue teaching tennis upon graduation but is studying to become an elementary PE teacher full time.
“Teaching tennis has prepared me more than I thought it would. It has made me more confident on the court, in myself and in my knowledge of the game. Every time I teach tennis, I can connect certain things to PE. I’ve also never been a fan of public speaking and I do it all the time now,” Garcia said.
A competitive high school player in her own right, Garcia has had coaches and mentors her entire life. Her father, Miguel Garcia, who works as the Club Manager at Rocky Hill, was her high school tennis coach.
“Growing up, my dad was my high school coach and I hated it. I never wanted to listen, and when he gave me advice, I didn’t want to hear it,” she said. “Now as a coach, I’m older and more mature, and I realize maybe I should’ve listened to things he said. They probably could’ve helped me improve a lot, not just with my playing, but with teaching,”
Garcia did seem to retain the most important lessons however, as she strives to be the best possible coach and teacher. She makes an effort to develop relationships with her students, ask them about their day, and tries to keep it fun and personal so they can relate.
“I coach people to be people of good character first, great athletes second, and great tennis players third, in that order, and I believe both Prem and Molly have all three things, especially good character,” Rossetti said. “Coaching starts from within. You want to inspire the player on the court to want to get better, and also you have to care about them as a person, not just as a tennis player.”
He added, “We need the next group of tennis teaching professionals to take the sport to another level, and coaches like Prem and Molly can do that. With both of them, the age that they were certified and how serious they are about it, that’s what so impressive to me. These two are so unique, and we need more pros like them.”