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Williams jack of all tennis trades

December 17, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

One morning when he was 9 years old, El Centro resident Dan Williams was given a wake-up call that changed his life.

About 5 a.m. that fateful day, Williams' dad woke him and told him to get ready because Dan was heading to Yuma to compete in a tennis tournament, about which he had no clue.

Williams had never competed in a tournament and really didn't like tennis, but knowing how much of a competitor his son was, Williams' father decided to enter him in the event.

Later that day, Williams walked off the court with a doubles championship trophy and was hooked.

Since then it has been almost non-stop tennis for Williams, now 28. Not only does he compete in tournaments for money, he coaches the boys and girls tennis teams at Central Union High, coaches his own junior tennis club, puts on local tournaments and recently decided to go into business selling tennis racquets.


"I guess it really did all start when my dad took me to that tournament. I had picked up a racquet a few times, but I was mostly hitting home runs every time I would hit a ball," said Williams, a 1991 graduate of Central. "But after that tournament I just got hooked. I just started practicing every day, wanting to play. I don't know what it was. I guess it was just a matter of being in a competitive situation."

In high school Williams was generally regarded as the top player in the Imperial Valley. His freshman year at Central he became the No. 1 player on the varsity and then won the Desert Valley League's individual championship his final three years. He also led his team to three DVL titles.

He then moved on to San Diego State University to play tennis. While playing there, Williams pulled the rhomboid muscle in his back. Because of the severity of the injury his playing days at SDSU were over and he sidelined from tennis for three years.

"After that happened I really didn't want to play at all because I knew that I wouldn't be playing at the level that I was accustomed," said Williams. "When it comes down to it, I just really lost the love I had for tennis."

It wasn't until 1996 that Williams need for tennis was rekindled. That spark came while watching Pete Sampras compete in the finals of the U.S. Open.

Williams started playing in some professional tournaments. After going 5-8 in the pro tournaments, Williams has stuck mainly to "money" tournaments, which are just for cash and not for rankings.

Already a proven player and established coach, Williams recently took on a new venture. He was approached by a sales representative from Head/Penn Racquet Sports in San Diego about selling racquets locally. After some mulling, Williams decided to take a risk and get into the business end of tennis.

"This was something that I really had to think about. But after thinking about it for a while, I decided to take a chance on this," said Williams. "I think the fact that I work with a lot of kids and with the knowledge that I have, I can help give them the right racquet.

"A lot of people may not realize it, but there's a lot of importance in using the right racquet because there's racquet models used for every level," said Williams. "And hopefully with what I know, I'll be able to help players decide what's best for them."

While he has added salesman to his resume, he is still a player and coach first and foremost.

Although he has been coaching and helping others on and off since he was 16, he has been coach at Central for two years.

Because of his experience and knowledge, he is able to teach his players not only the actual playing side of tennis but the mental side.

"If a player is already pretty good, I just try to make them a smarter player by playing against them and showing them what they might be doing wrong," said Williams. "One of the main things about coaching is that you have to treat everyone different because they're all different people with different talents and personalities.

"The key to this is just understanding them and knowing them and just making sure that they're honest with themselves. That's very important … it's everything," Williams said. "One of the good things about coaching is that you get a competitive rush from doing this. But the best thing is taking kids that aren't as talented as other players and then helping them, coaching them and getting them to the point that they can beat other people. There's nothing better than that."

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