Pro of the Month: Barb Acosta “Well, I am…me.”

Get to know Barb in our exclusive interview…

cg: What is your first memory of playing tennis?
Barb: “It was around age 10, playing with my sister Joni and cousin Paul. We would take lessons in the parks back in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.”

cg: What are your fondest memories of playing tennis?
Barb: “My fondest memories are playing in college at University of Texas. Tennis can be a very individual sport, but being on that team we really bonded and had a great time.”

cg: What is your claim to fame?
Barb: “After becoming #1 in the state of Wisconsin, I made it to the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida, an international championship where the top 10 in the world competed. There, I got to play with Chris Evert who was also just starting out. She beat me in 12 minutes, but it was my 12 minutes of fame. Years later I played with John Lloyd…he was gorgeous. In the 1990s I played with Guillermo Vilas, and once with Gene Wilder in a charity match.”

cg: When did you become a coach?
Barb: “While I was in college, our campus was near a private boys school, Cistercian Preparatory School. I was 19, they needed a coach it was a win-win. It was so much fun, I would jam the whole team in my huge Buick and we would travel to away games. That was the beginning, but I did have to be a chemist for a while after graduating.

“As a chemistry major, I thought that I owed it to my parents to at least give it try. So I worked on the oil rigs, figuring out how deep to drill… my career as a chemist didn’t last long.”

“As fate would have it, I was visiting my soon-to-be husband in Stamford on holiday. He brought me to Sterling Farms tennis courts to play. Nippy Williams was the property owner. The day before I walked in, he lost his leaseholder and general manager of the tennis facility and courts. He took one look at me and said “Do you want to lease this property?” And just like that, at age 25, I moved from Texas to Stamford and became a tennis facility owner.”

“I just took the leap, and did it. I loved it. It took off and was successful for 16 years.”

cg: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Barb: “Seeing someone improve and seeing them love playing. I coach a JV girls tennis team at King Low Haywood, they’re a wonderful group of girls and I hope that they can develop a life-long love for the sport. You can take a racquet anywhere and just play.”

cg: Is there anything that frustrates you about coaching?
Barb: “I don’t really get frustrated, but seeing a student get frustrated makes me think, “How can I reach them better.”

cg: What do you do differently from other coaches?
Barb: “Well…I am me. I love to incorporate humor into practice. Its the best when I can say at the end of a lesson, “I had more fun than you did, I should be paying you.”

cg: What advice would you give to young coaches starting out?
Barb: “If it feels like a job, don’t do it.”

cg: Are you a ball or a racquet?
Barb: “I’m the whole court.”

In addition to tennis, Barbara is an avid golfer, skier and a professional paddle coach. She’s a USPTA Master Pro and is certified by the PPTA. Her teaching style is direct, easy to follow and full of good-natured humor. Barb was my totally amazing paddle coach this past winter season, and even more incredible was the improvement I felt when I hit the tennis courts in the spring, thanks to Barbs diligent instruction and patience.

Thank you, Barb. Who knew you could play golf, paddle, tennis, ski, run a business and handle an oil rig? You’re living your dream with passion, love and a ‘just do it’ attitude… who wouldn’t want to be you!