2011 World University Games Head Coach Ryan Freeman and Team USA

Jason LampioneContributor IMay 13, 2011

Ryan Freeman is a USPTA. P-1 professional with more than 20 years of teaching experience. Recently, Ryan was named the head coach of the World University Games for the United States for the 2011 World University Games to be held in China.

He also helped develop Half Hour Power, a revolutionary exercise program used by top pros, including Mike and Bob Bryan and Melanie Odin.

A native of South Carolina with a degree in education from Clemson University, Ryan has been involved with tennis and teaching his entire life. He played tennis in high school and college and taught for several years at the junior-high and high-school levels. Ryan's passion for the game is evident in all aspects of his teaching.

Jason Lampione (Reporter/Question):  Was there a single event or experience in your young adult life that provided the inspiration as the "jump off" that gave you the idea that being involved in tennis would be a life pursuit? 

If so, can you provide the readers with some personal details both as a player and coach that made this career path possible over the years? 

Ryan Freeman (Interviewee/Answer):  Actually, it's a funny story how I got into tennis. I began late in life in today's standards, I was 12. I was playing a round of golf with my dad and on a par three the club slipped out of my hand and went into the river.

My dad was so angry that the next day I went and played tennis! I never stopped once I started. I was very fortunate to have a HS coach who was amazing, and I played five years of varsity tennis for him. Because of him I decided to be a teacher and coach. My major is elementary education, and I did teach school and coach HS tennis before I became full time in tennis.

JL:  Can you tell us more about your playing background and experience and how you were able to transform from player to coach and what made you decide to do coaching as career choice?  What lessons have you learned from being a competitive player that you can take away from those experiences and impart them into your current players learning?

RF:  I played five years in HS and then went on to play at Newberry College in South Carolina. I always knew that I wanted to work with children on a teaching/coaching level. And of course I knew I would never go pro in tennis!

I wanted to be able to give back to a student the way my HS coach did. There is something special that happens when a player listens to you and in a single moment, it clicks. The smile you get and the instant feedback is the best feeling in the world.

As a player, I always lived in the moment on the court and always, always, had fun. Even in my losses, though upset, I was having fun. I was playing a game, right? So when I step on the court to teach either a 2.5 player or I am working with the USA Team, I always have fun and I want them to have fun as well.

JL:  Do you have a belief system or set of principles that you live by that applies to both your playing and coaching background?  If so, can you give us a break down on each one and how they apply to everyday life?

RF:  You always evolve and grow each day. Each morning the sun rises, it gives you a new opportunity to learn.  And I believe strongly in that. You never stop learning as a coach or a player. Or even a person for that matter.

I am also a firm believer that you have to take chances in life. If you want something, don't be afraid to go for it. I don't want to look back in 35 years and say, "What if?" I may fail, and in fact, I have failed many times before, but one of my favorite lines is, "You can't steal second base if your foot is on first."

JL:  I have noticed that you're actively involved in the "Junior Tennis Grants" program and initiative, can you tell us more about this company and the whole concept and idea behind it?  Where do you see this company heading in the coming years ahead?  Do you have any short and long-term goals and objectives you'd like to share with the readers?

RF:  JR Tennis Grants was set up as a non-profit to help students learn and excel in tennis. As of now we are only taking full-time students, and they must each qualify through a financial application.

Our goal is to take the second tier kids that the U.S.T.A. does not pick up and provide them with free full-time tennis at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy. Right now we are only working with Rick, but our goal is to offer this to other tennis academies as well.

We just had our first major fund raiser and Ryan Sweeting participated. We are hoping to be able to provide free housing as well in the upcoming months. Our other goal is to be able to offer grants for the part-time students as well.

JL:  You had mentioned during our phone conversations that you're associated with the Rick Macci Tennis Academy.  How did you become involved with the Rick Macci Tennis Academy and what are you currently doing with them? 

Do you have any personal and professional goals that you'd like to achieve being employed with the Rick Macci Tennis Academy?  If so, can you elaborate to our readers on the specifics of those goals? 

RF:  Rick Macci is the home of JR tennis grants. But he was also kind enough to let us use his facility free of charge to hold our Team USA try outs. He even took time out of his day to speak to each of my players.

Rick Macci is a true coach, and although he has had huge success with his students, he is still grounded and spends eight to 10 hours a day on court. I know his second passion is commentating, and I hope to see him on TV soon.

He has been a guest of the radio show In the Tennis Zone and has also been featured on the Tennis Channel Academy. Every time I meet or talk with Rick I try and pick up one pointer or tip from him. He is a wealth of knowledge. His Director of Tennis, Bryon Gill, is a good friend of mine and my partner in JR Tennis Grants.

JL:  You have been appointed as head coach to represent Team USA for the World University Games that is being playing in China coming up in August. 

What preparations have you made during your appointment to ensure the success of Team USA heading into China?  How is each team member hand selected from all the collegiate colleges and universities from across the United States?  Do you base your selections on ranking, player availability or over all performance (athletic and academic) at the college level? 

RF:  A quick fact on the World University Games. They are held every two years and bring in over 9,000 student athletes and coaches from over 200 countries. They are second only to the Olympics in size.

This year was a difficult one for us. We have not had a team in several years compete in the World University Games. I had to educate the college coaches to the games again. I emailed all of the universities and asked for letters of recommendations of players that they thought would be a good fit.

I was not looking for the best players per say, but they had to have the best qualities on and off the court to represent our country. There is an honor code we have, and I want to be proud on our team.

Once I heard back from the coaches, I did phone interviews with dozens of players. From there I invited the top players to Florida where we had a three-day practice. It was then that we made the finally decision on the team. We have some of the top players from universities such as Stanford, Kentucky, Texas, BYU, UCLA, Memphis and Minnesota.

JL:  I have heard from various sources that the team is financially responsible for  the trip to China.  If so, have you received any support from outside sources to help assist the players in this transition coming up in August?  If someone wanted to make a donation to help assist and support the team what is the best way they can do that?  Do you have any charities or events coming up that you'd like to announce to our readers that might spark some interest abroad? 

RF:  This is the tough part. The players have to pay for the entire trip on their own. The NCAA, USTA, USPTA, ITA and the PTR have all turned down our request for money. And you know how hard it is for college kids.

The Games are $1,500 per player/coach and that includes accommodations and travel once we get there. We are responsible for getting to China on our own. I have been fortunate enough to secure a major sponsor, XTEP, from China. They are providing all team uniforms/shoes/bags plus $1,500 per player to help offset the cost of the trip.

Some of the coaches for my players have sent checks to me directly for the team. The NCAA is very strict on this issue, so we have not been able to do the fund-raisers that we wanted to and players cannot accept money themselves. I was really hoping that the alumni from each school would step it up for the players, but so far they have not. Anybody that wants to contribute can send checks directly to me and those funds will go to the players.

JL:  The website that you have provided me, www.halfhourpower.com, is a very unique training methodology.  I have heard that Rick Macci has given two thumbs up on this phenomenal program.

Can you tell us how this training has effected you and the important role it plays in preparing Team USA for the World University Games coming up in August?  How has this training program impacted your life and what testimonials have you heard from those that have used it?

RF:  HHP (half hour power) has been instrumental to my players. The debate going on now is how the ratio is to on-court training vs off-court training. Most coaches go four hours on court to two off court.

The best thing about the HHP system is that players can get tennis specific workouts without using the gym. It trains your body to how you play the game, on your feet, not lying down. Players get all the moves, stretches and core strength they need in just 30 minutes.

And don't get me started on how good it is for injury prevention. That's the main reason Fed has been so good for so long, zero injuries. The coaches of my players are using this system on a regular basis, two to three times a week, tops, no more.

The feedback has been amazing. The players are faster and recover quicker. But the best part is that you can do it anywhere. We have also received feedback from recreational players, this system is not just for the elite players, it's for anyone who wants to take their game and fitness to the next level.

JL:  In closing, where can we expect Ryan Freeman to be in the coming years?  Do you have any major projects on the horizon that you'd like to share with us today?  Is there any advice that you'd like to share with our readers, especially those thousands of players and coaches who play simply for the enjoyment and pleasure that tennis brings? 

RF:  Well, I have been named the head coach of the USA team for the next two events after China. I will be recruiting players for games in Russia for 2013 and South Korea for 2015.

So you will see my name out there again trying to get some of the best players to represent the United States!  My advice, keep playing and have fun!  Always keep an open mind and always be ready to learn something new, each and every day!

Thank you Ryan for making this a wonderful experience and for sharing your time and coaching knowledge here with our readers at Bleacher Report.  We know you'll be working hard in the coming months ahead and we wish you the very best in China. 

For those interested in supporting Ryan Freeman and the World University Games team here in the United States, please contact me (Jason Lampione) directly at jlampione@yahoo.com for further information on how to make a direct donation. 


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