Bob Pivec: making tennis fun

Bob Pivec with student Kim Schmuck. Photo taken by Al Wagner.

Bob Pivec with student Kim Schmuck. Photo taken by Al Wagner.

Rod Hayward

The Cottonwood Tennis Club has a long history of helping its members to improve their tennis skills. It is members like Bob Pivec who make this possible; 60 years ago, he congregated with his eighth-grade classmates to hit tennis balls in the local public playground; a decade later, he was already pursuing his eventual career coaching state champions. Today, he shares a lifetime of coaching experience with his friends and neighbors in the Cottonwood community.

For Bob, tennis was less about winning or losing than it was about maximizing God-given gifts and, above all, about having fun. “Even when I was faced with knee replacement, followed by an eye issue that prevented me from seeing the ball, it was still fun,” says Bob. “Overcoming these setbacks made me a better player. It reminded me to be grateful for the chance to play tennis and to share my love of it with others.”

Bob is keenly aware that tennis is not the same sport for a rambunctious teenager as it is for a 70 year old. At 18, you rely on your legs; at 70, on your brain. His initial 28 page coaching manual has since been reduced to a single page. “Tennis is about hitting the ball over an obstacle so that it lands inside the lines on the other side. Seeing the open spaces and the available angles leads to better decisions; better decisions will relieve demands on aging knees.”

For Bob, tennis has become simpler and his teaching more focused. He has also come to understand that teaching is about caring. When your students know that you genuinely care about them, the time together is more rewarding for everyone. Whether a beginner or an advanced player, everyone is guaranteed to get the same respect and commitment from Bob.

If you really want to know what kind of teacher Bob is, ask his students. “Bob’s lessons were always such fun,” says Sylvia Page, “full of realistic expectations and encouraging feedback.”

“He would tell us that we were playing like 17 year olds,” says Nancy Kelley, “and it filled us with laughter and youthful energy.”

“We all watched our games improve,” adds Susan Aparicio. “And we couldn’t wait until it was time for next week’s lesson.”

It is not only his students that reap the benefits of Bob’s eagle eye. Driven by the spirit of generosity that seems characteristic of good teachers, Bob is always willing to help a frustrated player in search of the flawless backhand that might lie buried under a recent glut of mishits. Next season, Bob, maybe we can fine-tune the blistering Federer serve that I’ve never been able to master.