For Nick Saviano, teaching excellence to youngsters comes naturally.
Nick Saviano lived a dream shared by countless young tennis players: He got to play on the pro tour for nine years, ranking in the Top 100 in singles and doubles, and won four titles. But if you ask him to name the best time of his career, he says it’s right now — teaching kids.
“I enjoy what I do immensely every day,” says Saviano, designated a master pro by the PTR and the USPTA. “The best time of my tennis career will always be today.”
After retiring from the ATP Tour in 1984, Saviano briefly worked as a private coach and pursued some non-tennis ventures. But the allure of the tennis life was too strong to resist, and he soon joined the USTA as a part-time coach. He then became a full-time USTA national coach, followed by the high-profile job of director of coaching education for USA Tennis High Performance.
In between, Saviano has also been an oft-read writer. His instruction articles have appeared in Tennis magazine and Tennis Life, and he authored the 2002 book Maximum Tennis: 10 Keys to Unleashing Your On-Court Potential.
After leaving the USTA in 2003, he established Saviano High Performance Tennis, based at Tennis Park Club in Sunrise, Fla. The program is his station for not only developing elite juniors, but for also helping those same kids develop into well-rounded adults.
“You use athletics as a way to teach excellence and life skills,” Saviano says. “Athletics becomes a wonderful tool, and the competition becomes a metaphor of life: preparation, self-discipline, dealing with success, dealing with perceived failure, learning to focus on the things you can control, learning to master skills. One of the secrets of competition is that it’s not really about the other person or the other team — it’s about mastery of oneself and always doing the best that you can do, and always pushing yourself for more. Success is not predicated on not losing.”
If that sounds overtly philosophical, know that it’s supposed to. “It’s critical that any coach have a clear philosophy on life, on athletics, and specifically on teaching tennis,” Saviano says, “because it’s the compass by which you make decisions throughout your career.”
Saviano’s clear philosophy clearly works well. His pupils have won nearly every major junior tennis event in the world, along with titles on the USTA Pro Circuit and the ATP Tour.
His success is widely noted and respected — not only by the players, but also by his peers. “Nick is certainly one of the masters of tennis teaching,” says Tim Heckler, CEO of the USPTA. “He has studied, learned, and written about the modern game, and his work is applauded by all who know it.”
“What makes Nick such a great coach is his honesty, integrity, and knowledge,” says Johnny Angel, a WTA Tour coach and former director of the PTR Florida Section. “He’s always got ideas, he shares information, he maintains an energetic environment. And he has a knack for being able to look at problems and find new solutions.”
Despite the praise for his accomplishments, Saviano remains grounded by his philosophy — the fruit of his craft is not for him, but for the youngsters he coaches.
“The most fulfilling part” Saviano says, “is feeling like you are having a positive impact on young people. You’re helping them strive for excellence and achieve their goals, and you are using tennis as one of the vehicles for which to accomplish that.”
Coaching Tips from Nick Saviano
- Always strive for excellence in your profession, which means constantly looking to learn, looking to grow, and looking to improve.
- It is a sacred trust working with young people. You have a moral and professional obligation to watch over them, and to try to provide a safe, healthy, wholesome environment for them to grow and learn.
- Watch and observe modern tennis — stay current with what you teach and how you teach it.
- If you genuinely put the player first, in terms of what you think is good for them, ultimately it will be good for you as a coach.
This is the sixth of nine installments on the teaching pros who hold Master Pro certifications from both the PTR and the USPTA.
See all articles by Chris Nicholson
About the Author
Chris Nicholson is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.