Hammond tennis coach wins global teaching honor

Hammond High School tennis coach Bernie McGuire gives a life lesson to the team before practice, Thursday, March 26, 2015. McGuire has been named the Professional Tennis Registry High School coach of the year.
Hammond High School tennis coach Bernie McGuire gives a life lesson to the team before practice, Thursday, March 26, 2015. McGuire has been named the Professional Tennis Registry High School coach of the year.

Bernie McGuire has shaped his share of forehands and backhands.

The longtime teaching professional and current Hammond School tennis coach has been a fixture on area courts for years, developing scores of competitive and recreational level players.

McGuire has been named the Jim Verdieck High School Coach of the Year by the Professional Tennis Registry. The award was presented at the recent PTR Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame induction.

The Professional Tennis Registry is the largest global organization of tennis teaching professionals with more than 15,000 members in 125 countries. The coach of the year award is named for Jim Verdieck, former tennis coach at the University of Redlands (California). Nominees must have been a PTR member for at least five years and coach high school tennis.

McGuire has served as Hammond’s tennis coach since 2009. He spoke recently about his love for teaching and the game.

What do you find one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching young players?

“I have always enjoyed teaching young players from beginners to national champions because of their quest to improve. This was true in my 32 years as a tennis professional and director of tennis for the Richland County Recreation Commission. Coaching the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams at Hammond School has taken the reward to an even higher level. Being a part of a team and coaching the players four or more days a week, we as Hammond coaches share daily life lessons, empathize with their time management, and grow closer to them.”

You instituted a “no-cut” policy after becoming coach at Hammond. What was the thinking behind that move and what do you feel have been the benefits?

“The no-cut policy was put in place because I felt every student who really wanted to learn and play tennis for their school deserved that chance. I feel the two main benefits of the no-cut policy have been that more and more players come out for tennis every year (60 girls on the roster for 2014 and 28 boys for 2015) and that because of these participation numbers our teams (Varsity, JV, Red and Blue) can compete and win.”

So how rewarding is it to have your personal efforts recognized this way?

“It is very gratifying to be recognized, but there is much more than my personal efforts that have contributed to the success of the Hammond School tennis program. The administration and the athletics office have been very supportive from Day One. The tennis coaches and volunteer tennis coaches that I have the privilege to coach alongside have bought into the no-cut policy. The parents have played a huge support role. And the players have always been polite and respectful, making coaching them a pleasure.”

Recreational tennis seems to have maintained a strong popularity in this community. What do you think have been some of the major factors behind that popularity?

“I think some of the major factors behind a strong popularity in recreational tennis in this community are the programs offered at the USTA SC such as Rising Star (beginner level) junior tournaments, junior play leagues and the 10 and under emphasis with smaller racquets and courts. At the adult level, the league system is very much alive and doing well.”

What is the most exciting professional tennis match you have ever witnessed in person or on TV?

“There have been so many exciting professional tennis matches that I have witnessed. One has always stuck with me since 1972. It was the finals of the WCT Championships in Dallas. Ken Rosewall defeated Rod Laver 7-6 in the 5th set – over 31/2 hours with tremendous shot making and Rosewall saving a match point to come back and win.”

What do you feel has always been the strongest (and weakest) aspect of your tennis game?

“I feel the strongest aspect of my tennis game has always been the ability to analyze my opponents’ games and find a way to neutralize their strengths. Sometimes you can’t play better than someone, but can still win, if you can make them feel uncomfortable. The weakest aspect of my game might be that I basically taught myself through trial and error, and believe me I made a lot of errors.”

You will be retiring at the end of the school year. What will you be doing with yourself and how much will you be on the tennis courts?

“My first retirement (from RCRC) was Dec. 31, 2008 and it lasted about three days. I began coaching at Hammond School and will retire for the second time, at the end of the boys’ season and playoffs at the end of April. My wife, Diane, and I are building a home at Reynolds Plantation in Georgia to be closer to our grandchildren who live in Atlanta. Our first priority is to spend most of our time being a part of their lives. In regards to tennis, I met with the Lake Oconee Academy tennis club and their coach and headmaster and the director of tennis at Reynolds Plantation. So who knows? I may hit a few more tennis balls.”

Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.