We are so excited to officially welcome Dave Fish to team UTR as our Head of Development! Dave has been evangelizing the UTR system for years and has been instrumental in facilitating its adoption in the tennis world, especially within elite junior and collegiate tennis. After wrapping up his 42nd season as the Scott Mead ‘77 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Tennis, Dave retired from collegiate coaching, leaving behind a legendary career where he amassed an impressive 702-319-1 overall record and is the winningest men’s tennis coach in Harvard history.
Tell us more about your history in tennis. How did you get involved in the game and why did you decide to become a collegiate coach?
I came through college during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when American society was being turned upside down with the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy, and the protests over U.S. involvement in the VietNam war.
Two of my four years at Harvard ended without finals exams, when the university went on strike, so it was a time of turmoil, most especially for young people who had to figure out a way to navigate safely through an “anything goes” world. Through it all, we thought of our coach, the legendary Jack Barnaby H ‘32, as a “lighthouse” of wisdom. He never judged us on the length of our hair or funky clothes, but he never put up with excuses or lowered the bar for us, and constantly challenged us to be the best that we could be. Sportsmanship mattered...he taught us never to take a point that our opponent didn’t feel we deserved. He loved to say that his only system was that had no system, in that he treated us each as individuals, not as cogs in a wheel. That was inspiring enough to hook me.
While I flirted briefly with becoming a doctor, when offered the opportunity to follow Jack, I grabbed it and never looked back. I’ve done my best to share his enthusiasm and love for coaching, and now look forward to working with UTR to insure that many thousands, perhaps millions of people, are introduced to tennis, and can enjoy a great tennis experience throughout their lives.
What have been some of your favorite memories/moments throughout your career?
Wow...the titles are fun, but it’s the relationships that I’ll treasure most, both my Harvard family, which has grown in size every year, and my amazing coaching colleagues.
What are you most proud of from your work at Harvard?
Of course, that we helped to bring in not just good tennis players, but also first-class young men. Second, that we were successful in creating an environment that not only enabled them to reach their tennis potential, but which also pushed them to grow in so many dimensions beyond tennis.
Was it difficult to make the decision to retire?
The idea of retirement terrifies me. I’m just “transitioning” now!
How did you get involved with UTR?
I have been an advocate for UTR since I first learned about it 7 years ago, when UTR’s creator, Dave Howell, shared with me his truly profound insights about the impact that the widespread adoption of a rating system could impact tennis everywhere. Without Dave’s thoughtful work, there would be no UTR today. Out of respect for him, and believing wholeheartedly in UTR’s transformative potential, I took on the task of evangelizing the impact that the adoption of UTR could mean for the entire tennis ecosystem worldwide. Now here we are 7 years later, and the appetite for UTR Powered Events keeps growing. With the support of Mark Leschly, we’ve assembled a dynamic group of talented team members, investors and board members who share our commitment to UTR’s mission, making it possible for us to turn these dreams into reality.
We’ve all been lucky to have tennis as a big part of our lives, and it’s our job to make sure that these opportunities are expanded to include many more in the future.
I think this commitment sends a powerful signal to the tennis world that tennis is worth investing in. In addition to working formally with UTR now, I’ll also have a seat on a board. I’m excited now have the time to dedicate my attention to supporting and growing UTR’s vision. Lots of challenges, but all worth it. We’ve all been lucky to have tennis as a big part of our lives, and it’s our job to make sure that these opportunities are expanded to include many more in the future.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing tennis today? And how do you think we can get more people on the court?
Tennis is highly fragmented. I’ve long believed that the widespread use of UTR represents the single biggest point of leverage available to us to reduce the waste of time, money and opportunity that cause so people to move away from tennis.
What are some of your biggest areas of focus for UTR?
The connection is the “Vitamin C” of tennis.
When players can connect easily with others at their level, everyone enjoys tennis more, more people save time and money, and more still will be able to participate in this amazing game for life.
My main area of focus will be to continue to identify ways that UTR can connect this fragmented ecosystem more effectively and efficiently. This can only happen if we all work together to produce win-wins for every link in the system - federations, associations, pros, coaches, parents, players, tournament directors and clubs. When players can connect easily with others at their level, everyone enjoys tennis more, more people save time and money, and more still will be able to participate in this amazing game for life.
How do you believe UTR can impact the game?
We are building a vibrant community of tennis players and organizers worldwide. Today, we have over 1,000,000 UTR rated players, along with federations, coaches, players, clubs and organizers who are all supporting and using the UTR system. UTR is providing a way for kids, their parents and coaches to understand their skill level, set goals and find competitive play in their area, reducing the need (and cost) to travel long distances for play. For kids, more competitive play is more fun, and that encourages them to keep getting out on the court. We receive daily feedback from parents who are so enthusiastic about UTR and how it’s helping more young players develop a love for the game.
Dave's UTR Lightning Round
Favorite player: Fednadal…:)!
Favorite tournament: There’s nothing quite so exciting as the later rounds of the NCAA tennis championships...although seeing Nadal jumping into Fed’s arms in the Laver Cup ain’t bad either!
Forehand, backhand or volley: Backhand slice...the unsung hero of the game...
Clay, hard or grass: Clay...so much artistry, balance, grace, grit...
How often do you play? Not enough, but still can get a few “wows” from our players for my mini-tennis mastery...
What’s your UTR? I’ve been advised not to make it public, so the pros will not feel threatened...
Best piece of Coaching advice:
The biggest challenge in coaching is...putting an old head on young shoulders! This happens more quickly when younger players get to regularly train and compete with older, smarter players.