Professors "have stepped up and found a way to make this program something really special. It was amazing to have all of my horizons expanded to a ridiculous degree.”
A new graduate program for current and aspiring tennis professionals is serving up all aces, according to its first students.
The professional tennis management certificate, developed by Bridgewater State University in partnership with the U.S. Tennis Association, is the first of its kind in New England. It prepares students for careers in all facets of the game, from coaching to running tennis facilities and organizations. Participants complete the certificate separately or as part of a master’s degree in physical education.
The six-course program includes a two-week residency on campus, where students work in the classroom, on the courts and in the community.
We spoke with two students about their experiences:
Putting a new spin on a lifelong pastime
Sara Hewitt has enjoyed tennis her whole life, but she never played the game using her non-dominant hand until she pursued the certificate.
“It really showed you a very unique perspective and really opened my eyes,” Hewitt said, adding it helped her understand new players’ struggles.
Hewitt particularly appreciated the residency, where students bonded with each other over a game they love and developed relationships with faculty.
“Other universities are so big. You want to feel a part of the program,” said Hewitt, who completed her residency in 2019. “We were able to establish great working relationships with all of our professors and colleagues in the program.”
Hewitt, who lives in Florida, completed the program’s internship requirement at the USTA’s headquarters, where she also works in operations. She was recently nominated to serve on the board of the USTA Florida Section Foundation, which financially supports organizations that help people of all ages and abilities experience the sport.
Hewitt continues to promote BSU to people interested in expanding their tennis knowledge.
“Even though I completed the program, I will always be a supporter of Bridgewater State and am so honored to have had the experience,” she said.
Turning coaching inside out
Jordan Zimmerman, G’21, is turning the traditional model of coaching on its head because of lessons from his master’s program.
Traditionally, coaches teach technique before athletes play a game at the end of a practice. Zimmerman now does the opposite. By playing tennis first, they realize what skills they need to improve.
“That was one of the first things I learned, and I’ve used it every day since,” he said.
Zimmerman, who picked up the sport in high school at the encouragement of his friends, is now assistant director of tennis growth at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. He has a bachelor’s degree in education from Nebraska Wesleyan University, but Zimmerman found better career opportunities in tennis.
He praises his professors, including Drs. Jennifer Mead, Karen Richardson and Tim Hopper, for challenging traditional ways of coaching and presenting research on alternative methods. Instead of dictating what players do, Zimmerman learned to be student-centered and let athletes make decisions about their development.
“They have stepped up and found a way to make this program something really special,” he said. “It was amazing to have all of my horizons expanded to a ridiculous degree.”
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