This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Summer 2011 Edition
Harker tennis director Craig Pasqua is not your regular tennis coach. “It‘s not just about teaching good tennis,” he says. “It‘s about teaching kids to become better, more responsible young adults and take their place in society through the game of tennis.”
Pasqua‘s coaching philosophy centers around development – both physical and mental – and his mission is to give as many children as possible the opportunity to play the game.
Pasqua graduated from Stanford University in 1986 with a degree in psychology and decision sciences. He played tennis for De Anza College after graduation and was for several years the national champion of the Native American Indian Tennis Association. He began coaching professionally in 2000 and has been with Harker since 2003.
Along with coaching the girls‘ and boys‘ varsity tennis squads in the upper school, Pasqua offers four levels of after-school tennis programs available to Harker and non-Harker students. Pasqua teaches at the Oakwood Tennis Center, which is located just down the street from Harker‘s Saratoga campus.
HOTTS, or Harker/Oakwood Tennis Training System, is Pasqua‘s central program. HOTTS introduces players to competitive tennis in a team-oriented environment. It is also very convenient for Harker students. Not only is it aligned with Harker‘s academic calendar, but HOTTS coaches escort Blackford students to Oakwood, and a shuttle is available for Saratoga students.
The first level is the QuickStart Junior Team Tennis League, a program designed for kids aged 6 to 10. Court dimensions are shortened, and the students use shorter racquets and slower balls. These changes help younger kids to learn because they can more quickly play “real” tennis. There is less focus on learning the strokes and rote technical repetition, and more emphasis on fun.
From QuickStart, students move on to Believe and Achieve, a program appropriate for beginner and lower intermediate tennis players ready to play on a full-sized court.
For the most advanced players, Pasqua offers the Intercollegiate Player Development Program (IPD). Acceptance to the program is by approval only, and it is meant to prepare students for tough, competitive, tournament play, as well as college tennis. “Some kids don‘t believe they have the skills necessary for college play,” says Pasqua, “but I believe in them, and I know they can do it.”
Pasqua believes in all his students and says that out of everything he does in tennis, his favorite activity is coaching. “I enjoy seeing the kids develop, and the lessons they learn on the tennis court transfer well into life skills. They learn how to problem solve, how to make decisions, how to prioritize. They learn how to be social and talk with other kids. Some of the most enduring friendships I‘ve ever made have been on a tennis court, and I‘m almost positive that’s what‘s going to happen to them as well.”
Apart from coaching at Harker and Oakwood, Pasqua keeps very busy with volunteer efforts. “I think it‘s very important to be a good role model for the kids,” says Pasqua. For the past three years, Pasqua has volunteered at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids‘ Day. This year he gave lessons for the USTA Serves Foundation, which supports programs that serve at-risk children and people with disabilities.
Pasqua is on the board of the Santa Clara Indian Health Center, the second largest community health clinic in Santa Clara County. He also founded a 501(c)3 corporation in 1996 called Standing Tall Tennis, through which Pasqua has taught tennis to more than 8,000 people in 21 states, many on Indian reservations.
In addition to coaching and his volunteer efforts, Pasqua works at keeping his coaching skills sharp. He recently spent a week at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, Fla., where Pasqua worked with Emilio Sanchez, producer of some of the top tennis players in the world, and adapted his drills and systems for Pasqua‘s own Harker/Oakwood programs.
Students are already seeing results. Harker student Shwetha Bharadwaj, grade 9, is a member of the IPD program and on the girls‘ varsity squad. “I‘ve improved tremendously,” says Bharadwaj. “[Coach Pasqua] does these new drills, and they strengthen me not only physically, but now I‘m smarter with my shots. I know when to hit what kind of shot.” Bharadwaj is appreciative of Pasqua‘s expertise. “He‘s extremely smart, very intelligent. The style [of tennis] he teaches us really helps because most of the girls out there don‘t know it.”
While Pasqua loves seeing his students improve, he says his true joy comes from seeing personal growth. “Kids come back after college and tell me how some adversity they encountered on the tennis court helped them get through something personal in their lives.” It truly is about more than just the tennis.
All four tennis programs are offered year-round, with special camps in the summer. For more information, visit Harker Tennis at www.harker.org and search on “athletics”; or contact email@example.com