by Kyle Rogers | Sports Editor
His name is not associated with tennis in the way the name Nick Bollettieri is. But if you listen to Eric Tate talk about the finer points of tennis and his coaching method, there’s no reason why his name couldn’t some day be a part of everyday tennis vocabulary.
Stroke efficiency is at the core of Tate’s coaching and teaching method, and while he’s new to coaching, Tate’s method stems from years of experimentation with his own game.
His coaching education started as a teen. He started asking questions when he noticed discrepancies between the pros he was watching and what his tennis coach was teaching.
“I see what you’re saying, but the pros are doing this,” Tate said to his coach. “His response was, ‘Well, that’s Agassi. That’s Sampras.'”
But that wasn’t good enough for Tate. He began looking more carefully at how the pros played.
“Their strokes are better,” Tate said. “They’re technically superior. There’s nothing earth-shattering about Roger Federer’s game. What’s amazing is that he has it. It can be broken down into components.”
And that realization took Tate on a journey through the world of tennis that eventually brought him to Sarasota. He played on the satellite circuit and moved from Michigan to Iowa to Texas to Ohio, working with different coaches, holding onto the dream of playing professional tennis and constantly fine-tuning his strokes.
Finally all of his tennis knowledge is helping others even though Tate avoided coaching for a long time.
“People kept telling me I should coach,” Tate said. “I wanted to focus on my own game.”
Tate had been hitting for a couple of years with Jordan Jenkins, a top college prospect who had been introduced to him by a mutual friend. He never told Jenkins the inefficiencies he had seen in her game and decided to make her his first project.
Jenkins, 17, a senior at Providence Community School, has seen a lot of improvement in her game since working with Tate.
He has cleaned up her strokes, but it is more than that.
“Other coaches didn’t teach me how to apply what they told me,” Jenkins said. “Eric taught me how to think for myself when I get into trouble (in a match). Now I’m not dependent on what someone is telling me to do.”
Wayne Osher, another student, said Tate has a precise way of addressing a person’s game unlike any he has seen from other coaches.
“He’s made it a science,” Osher said. “I know the fundamental way I should be hitting a shot. Now it’s just a matter of putting it together. No one had broken it down like that before. Other instructors had the general motion and suggestions, which is fine. Eric was able to show me the exact motion.”
Osher has been playing tennis for more than 30 years and has worked with several different instructors, but the four months he has spent with Tate is by far the longest he has been with any one coach.
“Without him, my game wouldn’t have changed.”
This is more than just tennis for Tate. Mostly he just wants to aid people in achieving their dreams and maybe help them get there faster by learning from his 20-plus years.