Last week, Glen Shull taught 14 kids a trick tennis shot. Shull, who has two master's degrees and a doctorate, retired in 1999 from traveling the world as an organizational development consultant for Marathon Oil.
In 2001, he started coaching tennis. Now, as a stay-at-home dad with a 2-year-old son, he teaches about 10 hours a week for Tampa's Parks and Recreation Department at the Himes Avenue Sports Complex. Tampa Bay Times staff writer Elisabeth Parker caught up with Shull to chat about fitness advice and his bonus life lessons.
Shull charges a drop-in fee of $10 for kids and adults to show up and play at one of his eight classes each week.
What ages do you coach?
I start at age 4. That's when eye-hand coordination comes in.
And your older students?
We have many who play tennis past 70, even into the 90s. There is one gentleman at 102 who plays four days a week in Florida. I will turn 70 in March and am a very active coach, feeding the balls, rallying and competing for fun and fitness. Not many my age or those in their 90s play any "athletic" sports except dancing and swimming.
What's a class with you like?
When you're on my court, you're pretty much in your cardio zone. I want you to hit a lot of balls.
You're there for exercise, not standing in line. I spend very little time talking. I model a volley or a ground stroke. I tell them as they're playing: "Get your stance right. Get your feet in the right place."
With kids, we play games like "bouncing balls alive." As long as the ball is bouncing, they get to hit it. I teach a shot of the day.
What are the fitness goals you aim for?
We focus on skills, conditioning (all muscle groups especially core and legs), games and fun. As a rule of thumb, 20 to 40 minutes in your cardio zone will get you in good condition.
For adults, I may work on her backhand or his serve. With kids it's a trick shot. Like underneath one leg or hitting with your back to the net. I have them catch a ball on their racket and not bounce it. Sometimes they actually end up using it in a game.
What are other ways you encourage kids to be active?
I always point out the positive. I have the kids race around the court. I say, "Notice how he's running. She's pumping her arms. Imitate that.' If a kid is 13 and he can keep up with me, he's pretty good. I'm in pretty good shape for an old guy. I'll talk to the parents. You have a natural runner. You ought to get him into track.
Do you teach other values in your classes?
I give a little sermon when we're taking our break if I see someone eating a candy bar. I might say, now, she's eating pretzels. That might be better for you on the tennis court than a candy bar. It's going to give you a high and then you'll find that you're dragging. I tell them, dilute Gatorade 50/50 with water. I suggest raisins or a banana.
All my kids eat pretty healthy after they've been there a few times.
I teach values, too.
I tell them: I'm a person. Don't hit the ball at me. Treat people nice. Treat things nice. None of my people throw their rackets. I have a catch phrase: safety first, fun second and skills third. Winning will come.
Parents have said, "Boy, none of your kids misbehave." One time, a nanny walked up carrying one of the younger siblings and a racket. I said, "Whose racket it that?"
The kid said, "That's mine." I said, "You carry it."
Parents always look at me and (silently say): "Thank you."
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.