During the fall and winter months, the Key Peninsula Civic Center echoes with the rhythmic “thump, thump” of tennis balls volleying between rackets. That is because on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings Rick Johnson turns the center into the place to be for tennis instruction on the Key Peninsula.
Johnson is the owner of Gig Harbor Tennis Club.
Eager pupils enter with equipment in hand and start to warm-up under Johnson’s watchful eye. After several drills, future aces answer questions in order to pair up for mock matches. They all concentrate on form and skill while Johnson adds praise or polish.
As a reward for hard work and focus, the last activity is a chance to play a game. Cheers resound off the walls and 9-year-old student Ashley Hall voices loudly that she wants to “play crazy tennis!” Even with that much enthusiasm, Johnson does keep it democratic and calls for a vote. Hands raise; crazy tennis it is.
The passion Johnson feels for tennis is readily apparent as he recounts his history with the sport.
After playing tennis in high school, he graduated and spent time volunteering at a club in Everett. Life pulled him to Ellensburg though. Several years later, he realized that his love of tennis and joy for helping others learn the game could combine. He returned to Everett in 1975 and became the tennis pro at the Everett Club.
This position at the club allowed Johnson to travel to different clinics as well. Top tennis players ran training camps from Texas to Oregon and Vermont. One of the most valuable lessons impressed upon him though was integrity and “how sports are not just about winning but how you treat the person on the other side of the net on and off the court,” he said.
In 2001, Johnson had a change of direction and decided that running his own business would allow personal growth. He moved to Gig Harbor and rented local studios for indoor tennis lessons. By 2002, on a drive around the area, he found the civic center and has been connected to the Key Peninsula ever since.
The last 12 years have seen an expansion of tennis and Johnson’s presence at the civic center. From helping to refurbish the outdoor courts to getting KP students ready for high school tennis, Johnson said his classes have grown and he works with a great bunch of kids.
Apart from teaching the fundamentals of tennis, Johnson also stresses the concept of composure to his students. PHS graduate Jake Sorensen has learned “the importance of respect and dependability” during his time as Johnson’s pupil and assistant.
Other services provided by the tennis couch are adult classes, cardio tennis, private lessons, and equipment selection. Johnson is USPTA certified and has a tennis studio in Gig Harbor for younger players scaled to their smaller size.
For information, visit gigharbortennis.com.