We are thrilled to introduce one of the newest additions to our community, Coach Chad Oxendine, a USPTA Elite Professional. Coach Chad comes to us with decades of experience and a passion for sharing tennis with as many players as possible.
Chad is this year’s recipient of the NC Tennis Mary Milam Lifetime Achievement Award! We believe this is well-deserved recognition and are grateful he is part of our community.
Chad works daily to build strong relationships with other entities in the community that look to promote “the sport for a lifetime” and give all levels of players the opportunity to play tennis.
There and Back Again
Chad graduated from UNCW with a BS in Marketing and finished as the #1 singles and #1 doubles player for the Seahawks Men’s Tennis team. He then achieved USPTA professional status in 1995. He competed monthly in Pro-Am and area satellite tour events, and held positions as a Head Tennis Pro in Texas and a Tennis Director in Mississippi, setting record participation numbers in USTA team and Junior tennis.
Upon arriving back in North Carolina in the fall of 2001, the vision Chad had for a tennis community and its tennis enthusiasts took shape as AMPTennis in Concord, NC.
Community and Connections
Chad always had a desire to step out and help his community. He emphasized that it’s important to connect with the community – go to tennis meetings, talk with people, “get outside our bubble and our comfort zone.”
His first exposure to athletes with special needs was in 2009. He had already been helping with Special Olympics sports when Emily Riley, Special Olympics area Coordinator, recruited him to run tennis clinics and a Qualifier for Special Olympics athletes preparing for tennis events in the State Games. He also worked one-on-one with some of the athletes, those who wanted to improve their competitive advantage before the games.
Lou Welch connected with him at a North Carolina Tennis event to gauge his interest in running an Abilities Clinic, then visited his Junior Academy to watch him in action. In 2019, the Concord Abilities Tennis clinics were established with Chad applying his tennis vision to athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Chad said he believes Special Olympics is a great program because it exposes athletes to a variety of different sports. He then pointed out that, “some athletes want to specialize and play tennis year-round; they want to get better and compete at higher levels; they travel far and are very serious about the competition, just as competitive as any other athletes. Their degree of desire is the same and many are able to physically and mentally progress in the sport.”
An Opportunity Through Abilities Tennis
“The beauty of tennis for players with special needs is that it can be adapted in so many ways to meet an athlete at their level. You can meet the need within the sport and athletes still compete and still progress.”
He loves that Abilities Tennis gives players the opportunity to grow at their own pace, be more competitive, and up their game.
Chad praised the structure of a Skills court, Short court, and Full court and further emphasized how you can adapt within the sport saying, “even if they just do the running, or the balance or footwork drills, or even just work with a ball – there are so many ways to get players active.”
“Like any player – they need the correct progressive approach.”
A Family Sport
What’s equally exciting for Chad is seeing all family members start to play tennis. He said it’s common for parents to be with their athletes at clinics and then decide to learn the game or improve their game with lessons.
Parents of a child in one of his clinics decided to start taking lessons for the sole purpose of sharing tennis with their daughter. They take weekly lessons with Chad who is happy to see family tennis becoming a trend.
Chad observed that players often do not have their own tennis equipment and occasionally come with whatever equipment is available. “It may not be right for their level or playing style,” he pointed out. “They may need to change the type of ball they use, need a more appropriate racquet size, or need more basic skills before trying to play a game. It’s common that players’ first experience on the court is with family, just trying it out.”
Chad shared that athletes may be fighting obesity or inactivity and tennis gets them in the habit of being active and having fun doing it. Abilities Tennis has the platform for starting and progressing and growing in the sport, he stressed. Yet, there are also times where players progress in other ways.
One of Chad’s athletes who has Down Syndrome, started to open up verbally and physically while playing. He accomplished things that surprised both Chad and his mom.
“If you don’t put a ceiling on them, they’ll go as far as they can”
“Footwork, balance – don’t hold back teaching any aspect of the game. Everyone is a little different with their capabilities and there may be times you need to modify how you teach. Adapt to your athletes, adapt to the mood or to the situation and be mindful of who you are dealing with…
Some athletes may not like the conditions of the day, may be more anxious or distracted, so it’s important to be able to adjust your plan.”
“Think outside the box – Passion, Patience, Persistence”
Try It… You’ll Surprise Yourself
Tennis brought together two worlds for Chad – coaching and reaching out to his community.
His recommendation for coaches: come do a session. Get on the court, run through the drills, and “learn by doing it.” He understands there are those who may be concerned about their lack of experience. “Safety first, then fun.” Chad points out how important it is for athletes to determine how far apart they need to be on the court, and that it may be different for some. He’s observed that having athletes pick their own spots helps them be more aware and learn, and subsequently, helping them find their space helps you know where to put down the spots and lines.
Your athletes are athletes, he stressed. “You treat them like any other player. Lots of things tend to be done for them. However, if you make them get their own things, do their own pick-up and work, they get more confident, especially in the sport.”
“It takes energy,” he commented, and sometimes he is very tired from a long week. He then countered he gets a renewed strength when he gets out there. “A little Mountain Dew also helps.”
What would you like to see in 2020?
Abilities Tennis contributes to fulfilling his goal of giving “all levels of players the opportunity to play tennis.” He wants to see ATANC sustain what it has, “be a good steward of what we have, keep our excellent coaches and even see more coaches and locations” – and he would love to see clinics grow. Chad thrives in large groups and coordinating the on-court activity for lots of players and participants.
Chad looks forward to setting up his Spring Concord clinics. If you’d like to be a part of it, he would love to hear from you.