By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER — Tennis pro Tom Cuming is a happy man. He continues to wear sneakers to work and do what he’s done much of his life and loves. The difference now being he’s doing it at the Little Silver Tennis Club.
“I love being on the court. I love helping people learn the game,” Cuming said about his work teaching people the intricacies of the sport that has dominated his life.
The Little Silver Tennis Club, 100 Birch Ave., is currently working on its renovation and expansion project, involving building additional outdoor and enclosed courts for the private club that dates back to 1969.
“What we’re trying to do here at this club is bring that high level of player back in here,” Cuming said, pointing to what the new facility will offer and his coming onboard as director the club’s Tournament Elite Players program.
Cuming, wearing his work clothes of a warm-up suit and sneakers, talked this week about his career and joy of the game and his role with the facility. “I love watching people go from never playing before to ‘Hey, this is a cool game.’”
It was that sort of epiphany that occurred for him when his parents, who regularly played tennis, introduced him to the game at five-years old. “I’ve been on the court a long time,” he acknowledged.
Cuming, 58, is a Middletown resident who had previously owned and operated Brunswick Hills Racquet Club, East Brunswick, eventually selling the facility to a group of investors. He joined the Little Silver club last October but this isn’t his first experience with the facility. He had run a coaching program at the club with his former high school coach back in 1978.
He grew up in Middletown, attending Christian Brothers Academy, the private Catholic high school, in the Lincroft section, graduating in 1976. Cuming played tennis for his high school team, ultimately winning a full scholarship to Penn State University. But the pull of the sport became too great and Cuming quit college after his freshman year to turn pro, going on the tournament circuit. “It was a great learning experience,” doing much of it on his own, he recalled, at a time the sport was attracting more attention and increasing in popularity. He continues to offer his talents as a volunteer coach at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken.
Cuming feels students could start learning the sport seriously at about the age of 7, when their motor skills are developed enough to handle it. And he has seen some terrifically talented kids who have and are embracing the sport. The appeal for him, has been that tennis highlights the achievements of the individual, without being reliant on a team effort. “In tennis you earn every point,” he noted.
And the sport offers some important life skills for young players. “You learn how to win; you learn how to lose; you learn how to lose graciously,” he explained. “It teaches all of those competitive skills,” in addition to providing valuable time management lessons, for young student/players, he pointed out.
Cuming is seeing enthusiastic young players, brimming with passion and ability and hopes to help take them to the tournament level. While they have the natural talent and enthusiasm for it, “You need help learning the skills,” he said.
There are a lot of talented high school team members in the Two River Area—the Holmdel team and Red Bank Catholic’s girls’ team are particularly noteworthy, he observed—where tennis is a staple recreational activity, usually with parents who play introducing the sport to the kids. But for serious young players, and for families interested in having them pursue the sport on the college level, and possibly earn a scholarship, the route really is with the tournaments, Cuming said, noting scholarships seem to be especially available for girls, due in large part to Title IX federal mandate, providing opportunities for female athletes.
On the tournament level, that’s where the scouts really look for the talent, he explained. Like golf, “They will recruit you off your ranking,” Cuming noted.
Cuming’s passion shows through when talking tennis, his joy of the sport. “If I won the lottery,” he confided, “I would go to work the next day,” undoubtedly wearing sneakers.
According to co-owner/operator Jeff Miller the facility’s upgrades should be completed by early summer. The club plans on hosting United States Tennis Association tournaments in the near future.
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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