Students slouched in undersized desks, have their hoods up and their heads down. They listen to the drumming of their own pencils as they try to stay awake. The familiar setting of a classroom has bored them to death and they shrink into their seats as the professor calls their names.
Meanwhile, tennis tech majors are outside practicing their tennis grunts as they receive a high five and a ‘Good Job’ from their coach. As the sweat rolls down their faces, they think ‘This is what I get to do the rest of my life.’
“My job is to teach people how to teach tennis,” said Director of Tennis Tech Kimm Ketelsen.
Tennis Tech is a technical program geared towards teaching students about the professional ins and outs of the sport. Tyler Junior College offers an associate’s degree in professional tennis management and a one-year certificate of proficiency program. There are currently 21 students enrolled in these programs this semester.
The program is over 20 years old and has attracted students from 50 states and 20 countries. Ketelsen is a former Texas Longhorn coach and a two-time NAIA All-American. He is the primary teacher of the classes at Tennis Tech.
“I teach 95 percent of the classes and Coach Peterson teaches one of my classes each semester,” he said.
Ketelsen said he only teaches two classes per day in a classroom setting. The students also gain experience at the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Complex during labs lasting 15 hours per week.
The associate’s degree in Professional Tennis Management requires students to take all their core classes along with two to four recreational classes per semester, totaling over 70 credit hours in two years. The average amount of hours required for other associate degrees at TJC ranges from 60-64 credit hours.
After completing the technical program at TJC, 90 percent of the students find full-time tennis employment, sometimes even before they graduate.
Matt Moreman,a Tennis Tech student in his last semester, said he already has job offers in the area.
“Coach K and Coach P really help us find jobs. I’ve met so many people through this program that will give good references,” said Moreman.
Career opportunities in tennis are not limited to a certain geographic area. Ketelson said his former students are spread out all over Texas.
“I have graduates working here in Tyler at Tyler Tennis and Swim, and Hollytree Country Club. I even have graduates in other towns such as Dallas, Lufkin and Houston,” said Ketelsen.
Tim Young, the current coach at Grand Saline High School, graduated from Tennis Tech in 2004. When he retired to Tyler after his career in Dallas as a stockbroker, he heard about the Tennis Tech Program and decided to enroll.
“I decided I wanted to find something I would enjoy doing until I die,” said Young. “Now I am 60 years old and I’m on the tennis court every day making a living.”
Young also works and lives in Holly Lake Ranch Retirement Community, located in Hawkins. He gives credit to Ketelson for success in his field.
Coach Young and his high school players paid a visit to Tennis Tech on Feb. 24 when they had a tournament cancelled due to weather. This gave tennis tech students a great opportunity to practice their teaching.
“Not only does Tennis Tech teach students how to teach tennis, but it teaches them the importance of lifelong physical activity,” Young said. “That is a lesson we need to instill in society.”