Rick Macci On His First Meeting Richard, Venus and Serena Williams

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Rick Macci has been dubbed “the coach of prodigies” by Hall of Fame journalist and personality Bud Collins. His reputation as such started when he worked with a pre-teen Jennifer Capriati in the 1980s, but it was burnished when he worked with Venus and Serena Williams when the future legends were only 9 and 10 years old.

In his new book “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559254/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vfRvtb1P14M50T4C ), Macci describes his incredible first ever meeting with Richard Williams and his first on-court experience with Venus and Serena. The first part of the chapter “Venus and Serena Williams” from the book is excerpted here below:

 

I was at the Easter Bowl in 1991 in Florida one afternoon and watching kids from the academy compete and someone mentioned to me that there was a girl out in California who had a lot of potential and had just been in the New York Times. I knew every kid in the country and I had never heard of this girl named Venus Williams. And they said, “Yeah, she’s in the New York Times and there is a lot of potential.”

One thing led to another and an agent from Advantage International said, “Mr. Williams is going to give you a call because they are eventually looking to move from California to Florida to come to a tennis academy.” I said, “OK, give me a call.” A couple weekends passed and Richard Williams ended up giving me a call, probably one of the most bizarre and interesting conversations I ever had in my life. We started talking and he explained to me where they’re at, and so on and so forth, and he wanted to know if I wanted to come out to Compton and take a look at his girls. The only thing I knew about Compton was that it was kind of a rough neighborhood back in the day. He said, “The only thing I can guarantee you is I won’t let you get shot!!”

I thought I’ve got to meet this guy! I said, “Hey, it’s May, it’s kind of slow. I’ll come out for a weekend.”

I was very curious because if someone was that good, from what other people said, I know what good would be. I didn’t have anything to do that weekend, so I booked a ticket and flew out to Compton and got into LAX, got a cab to the hotel in Compton. That night Richard and Oracene and Venus and Serena came over and it was interesting because Venus sat on one knee of her dad and Serena sat on his other knee and we had this two-hour conversation. Richard was asking me all kinds of questions. He actually was very insightful because he knew a lot of things that I was surprised about. He knew who I taught and what I’ve done and which kids have won national tournaments, how many times I’ve been coach of the year. He did some homework, so he kind of had the pulse on my career.

The night ended and he said, “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 in the morning and we’ll go to Compton Hills Country Club and that’s where we’re going to practice.” He picked me up at 6:30 in the morning in an old Beetle bus, kind of wobbling side to side. I got in there in the passenger side and there was a spring sticking out of the seat and I was afraid I would harpoon myself and be permanently injured. So I watched how I sat, for sure. Venus and Serena were in the back of it and there must have been three months’ worth of McDonalds and Burger King wrappers in there, and many Coke cans and bottles, tennis balls all over. I asked, “Do you guys sleep in here?” He said, “Sometimes if I have to. Depends on the wife!”

We pulled up to the park and I thought we were going to a country club. He said, “No, this is the Compton Hills Country Club. I named it that.” I thought this guy was crazy. And I was right. Crazy like a fox! More on that later. It was a park that had two courts and it was about 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and there were about 20 guys playing

basketball and there were another 15 people at least passed out on the grass. There was broken glass and beer bottles everywhere. This was definitely different than the luxurious Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, where I was director of tennis. So it was really a culture shock to see the situation.

When Richard and Venus and Serena got out of the car everybody acknowledged Richard. They called him King Richard. They acknowledged the girls. They stopped playing basketball and parted like the Red Sea and we walked through the basketball courts to get to the tennis courts. They were very respectful of the girls, probably because of the publicity. We go onto the tennis courts and they’re kind of like the courts I grew up on. They were broken, chipped up and broken glass was all over the court. The courts didn’t need resurfacing, they needed to be blown up.

I remember Richard had a shopping cart attached to the net post and it had about 20 feet of chain around it. He got the balls from the car and it took him about 20 minutes to get the chain off the basket that was attached around the post so nobody would steal it. He filled up the basket with balls, and they were all dead balls. But I brought a case of new balls because I thought maybe they might not have the best balls.

After we got organized and had all the balls in there, Venus and Serena kind of jogged around the court. One thing I noticed right off the bat: Venus ran kind of different. She was very long, very tall and had strides like a gazelle. I said, “Ah, that’s interesting.” I was thinking she should run track and not pursue tennis. This isn’t very common for tennis, someone who is spindly. She was like a praying mantis. There was a lot of length there in her stride. Serena was very stocky and compact as a 9-year-old.

I started feeding them balls. One blueprint in seeing a lot of kids is that I see greatness technically at a young age. I coached Jennifer Capriati for three years and    biomechanically Jennifer was not only one of the best ever in those areas of the game, she was one of best ball strikers ever. So now I’m seeing these girls from Compton and they had beads in their hair and they were swinging at the balls and their arms and legs and hair were flying everywhere. There were elbows going right and legs going back, there was improvising all over. So cosmetically I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, “This is a train wreck! This is all hype and I cannot believe I’m in Compton, California, ruining my weekend.” I didn’t think they were really that good. I had seen all the kids and had just come from the Easter Bowl and I’d had many kids win every national at that time.

I thought Venus and Serena looked like decent athletes but technically they were all over the map just because they were improvising. You could tell they just didn’t have quality instruction. After about an hour we started doing competitive things where Venus would do something against Serena even though Venus was much better at the time. Richard said, “I prefer that they not play against each other.” So I said, “OK” and had one of them come and play with me. So we started competing and right then and there their stock rose immediately. My whole perception — and this is a good lesson for any parent or coach — you don’t judge a book by its cover. I looked cosmetically and I saw what I wanted to see. And I come from a vast background of information and I passed judgment that I thought they were limited. Now when they start competing I saw the preparation get a little quicker, I saw the footwork get a little faster, I saw consistency raise a little higher. I thought, “OK, they went from just maybe average kids their age to they could be some of the better prospects in the country.” At least now their stock was at a point where I thought they’re good, there’s some potential here. Athletically they were unique for sure.

But technically they were still a train wreck. Just a lot of things were really way off. They hadn’t had world-class instruction. But the way they competed, and they didn’t want to lose the point, to me their stock rose even more. To me that’s always the X factor, the way someone competes. Venus and Serena had a deep down burning desire to fight and compete at this age. It was unique. Unreal hunger.

Then Venus asked Richard if she could go to the bathroom. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. There were a great close knit, loving family. So Venus decided to go to the bathroom. She went out the gate and the first 10 feet she walked on her hands. And the next 10 feet she went into backward cartwheels.

Now I’m seeing this girl and I’m thinking, “How tall are these girls going to be?” He says, “They’re both going to be over 6 feet, strong and powerful.” And I said, “Let me tell you something. I think you have the next female Michael Jordan on your hands.” And he put his arm around me and he said, “No brother man, I’ve got the next two.” At 10 and 9 years old.

 

“MACCI MAGIC,” available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?150001094-X99l/7XH5chA2%4063364085-8b8oWs74ZG6qQ  is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.

The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.

Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”

Said Mo Vaughn, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”

Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”

Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”

Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.

 

Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Richard Williams, photo by Art Seitz

Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Richard Williams, photo by Art Seitz

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