Ask the Experts
Coach of Top Pros and Young Teens: An Interview with USTA National Coach Mike Sell
by Colette Lewis
, 21 December 2011
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USTA Lead National Coach Mike Sell may have started playing tennis at the relatively late age of nine, but in the thirty years since, he has experienced just about everything the sport has to offer.
Excellent results late in his junior career made him a sought-after recruit, and Sell, who grew up in Oregon and New Jersey, competed at the University of Georgia
for four years. A four-time All-American for the Bulldogs and the winner of the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship award in 1994, Sell went on to play five years on the ATP tour, where he reached a ranking high of 136 in singles and 83 in doubles. Sell returned to Georgia to finish his degree in Speech and Communications in 2001, and immediately embarked on a career in coaching, serving as personal coach to Monica Seles for two years before joining the USTA in 2003.
In his eight years with the USTA, the 39-year-old Sell has coached both juniors and professionals, including a stint last year with Serena Williams and a recent collaboration with Donald Young. He is based in Boca Raton, where he is now back coaching American juniors born in 1997, and I had an opportunity to sit down with him at the Junior Orange Bowl to discuss his coaching career and the prospects for American tennis in the coming years.
Questions and Answers
Colette Lewis (CL): How were you introduced to the sport?
Mike Sell (MS): I started tennis from Santa Claus. My parents gave both my older sister Jenny and me a racquet at Christmas and we went out that day and played in the driveway, in Bend, Oregon, where my grandparents lived. We just kept on playing and enjoyed it, along with a lot of other sports, and tennis just kind of stuck as far as the enjoyment level. I was nine and she was 11 and we learned tennis on the wall before we got on to a tennis court and had lessons on a more consistent basis.
CL: What other sports did you play?
MS: I played soccer through eighth grade, basketball through junior year of high school, all these different sports growing up, but tennis was the main one. (Younger sisters) Kris and Kathy came to a bunch of tournaments with us and they just wanted to do what their older sister and older brother did. My parents were not tennis players, they just wanted to introduce us to many activities, even violin, which lasted about six months for me. I was the worst violinist in history. They just signed us up for multi-sports camps in the summer and fortunately, tennis stuck with all of us.