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Tennis pro Aten aces HOF spot
Tennis pro Aten aces HOF spot
By TONY LANGE
Twenty-five years of teaching, coaching and playing have propelled Greg Aten into the United States Professional Tennis Association Midwest Division Hall of Fame.
As a USPTA-certified professional, Aten is the tennis director at the Chagrin Valley Athletic Club in Bainbridge and the varsity girls tennis coach at Kenston High School.
Founded in 1927, the USPTA is the world’s oldest and largest association of tennis-teaching professions with more than 15,000 members worldwide.
With a variety of accolades throughout his career, earning a spot in the hall of fame tops them all, Aten said. In 1991 and 1993, he was the USPTA Ohio pro of the year, and in 1995 and 1997 he was the USPTA Midwest Division pro of the year.
“What’s nice about this is it’s voted on by your peers, and you have to be nominated by your peers,” he said about his hall-of-fame induction. “It encompasses everything in tennis since I’ve been involved throughout my career.”
Aten’s induction ceremony will be held Aug. 16 on center court during the Western and Southern Open tournament in Mason, near Cincinnati.
He will be recognized with three other longtime tennis professionals, including Jorge Capestany, of Holland, Mich., Mike Woody, of Midland, Mich., and Will Cleveland, of Fort Wayne, Ind.
“It’s neat, because I’ve known all of them my whole career and we’re all friends,” Aten said. “We’ve done charity events and been on the board together, and I’ve just had really nice relationships with them.”
Besides teaching, coaching and playing, hall-of-fame inductees also are graded on what they’ve given back to the game of tennis.
Aten was the USPTA Midwest Division president and was on the board for 14 years. He also served the USPTA Northeast Ohio District as president during his career.
The USPTA, however, isn’t his first hall-of-fame induction.
While attending Mentor High School in the early 1980s, Aten was inducted into the Cardinals’ hall of fame for his team’s runner-up finish at the state cross-country meet.
“I was a three-sport athlete back then,” he said. “It’s funny, because I’m not in their hall of fame for tennis, but the sport has just been my passion forever.”
Aten was the Cardinals’ No. 1 tennis player from his sophomore through senior years, and, after graduating from Mentor, he started college at Kent State University but transferred after his freshman year, because the Golden Flashes cut their tennis program.
That’s when he ended up with a scholarship at the University of Akron, which was a member school of the Ohio Valley Conference at the time.
There, Aten had teammates from Barbados, Australia and Canada who came together to form a team that won a conference championship.
“It was really neat to play with guys from all different walks of life, and I just loved the team aspect of tennis,” he said. “I think it’s a great way for kids to learn.”
Coaching at Kenston, Aten said, “It’s great to just work with young kids and not just teach them tennis but teach them how to be a better person, how to be the right fit on the team with other people, how to act and how to treat your teammates and how to be respected by others and how to respect others. I just think it’s been a fun team.”
Teaching the game to children and adults at CVAC is just as refreshing, he said.
“A lot of people go to work, and it’s kind of stressful. I go to work, and I’m really trying to reduce stress in people’s lives to make it fun,” Aten said. “That’s one thing I enjoy is that I’m usually with people during a time when they’re wanting to relax and have some fun and learn the sport, and, at the same time, I’ve been really lucky to achieve the things that I’ve achieved playing the sport, and it’s nice to give back.”
He also gives back by volunteering as an assistant boys coach at Copley High School, where his sons Austin and Gavin attend school.
Tennis is unique in that high school girls have their season in the fall and boys play in the spring.
Austin is an upcoming senior, and Gavin is an upcoming freshman. As a junior, Austin and teammate Alan Du, also a junior, advanced to the Division I state tennis tournament in doubles.
“This is one year when I’ll actually get to coach both of them at the same time on the same team, so that’s pretty neat,” Aten said. “I’ve given a lot of volunteer time back to tennis, because it’s given a lot to me, obviously, in getting a college scholarship and in getting the jobs that I’ve had. It’s done a lot for me, and now both of my kids play, so it’s been real rewarding to watch them,” he said.
“I tell my kids not to be afraid to see how good you can get at something. Don’t just do it to do it. Make the effort to strive to be the best at what you do. It’s what I try to do with my coaching and my teaching and playing.”
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