With a twinkle in his eye and a white ball cap on his head, David Barrett said, “I’m looking for exercise and a little competition.”
Barrett, the former business professor from LaGrange College and Georgia State, did not grow up on the tennis courts. Barrett discovered the game of tennis at the tender age of 52.
That was 12 years ago.
“One of my colleagues needed a hitting partner,” said Barrett, who knew very little about tennis at the time.
Barrett agreed to play. The rest is tennis history. Barrett, now 64 years old, has been playing tennis ever since.
“I’m just an average recreational player, but I like hitting the ball back and forth. Tennis is camaraderie. In this town (of LaGrange) you can always find someone your skill level (to play against),” said Barrett.
His tennis motivation is simple, you see.
“I want to get better. I’m learning to be smarter and patient. I want to win. My forehand is getting better, and my volley is getting better. Six years ago I started playing in the USTA League. I like the competitive matches,” said Barrett.
He lives for the pressure points and the one-on-one confrontation. Barrett wants to work for what he gets.
“I play five tournaments (a year). It’s fun,” said Barrett, who is the president of the Chattahoochee Area Tennis Association. “This is almost like sandlot tennis.”
Barrett does play to win, and Stephen Vincent is helping Barrett do that. For the past year and a half, Vincent has been working closely with this star student. Vincent is a tennis pro at the McCluskey Center in La-Grange.
The student and teacher returned to the clay courts at McCluskey on Tuesday afternoon for a one-hour lesson. It was a tennis grind.
“We worked on forehands, backhands, volleys and serves. We worked on overheads. He (Vincent) recognizes my flaws. He is more of a mentor,” said Barrett.
Vincent does not go easy on his student either. The tennis pro is firm, and he expects Barrett to improve. And he is doing that, one sweaty workout at a time. Barrett does get one tennis lesson per week.
“David was already a good player. I’m just sharpening up his techniques,” said Vincent, the former tennis standout from LaGrange High (1999-2002).
The coach and player do look forward to the lessons. It is all about raising the player’s level of tennis.
“David has pace and spin (on his shots). His serves go in. I’m seeing him grow and develop. His movement is getting better, and his strokes are getting better,” said Vincent.
But even more than that, according to Vincent, “He is eager to learn.”
The ex-college professor, David Barrett, is a good student and a winning tennis player. Even at 64 years of age.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer