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Tennis Coach Is Helping Revive Interest in the Game

Geoff Sawyer is growing his tennis coaching business, one student at a time

By Stefan Yablonski

Geoff Sawyer is a tennis coach and the owner of a new business, Tennis Supply Guy, in Fulton.

During the work week, he is a pharmacy technician in Fulton.

He is a one-man business and has grown his business in the last three or four years by working evenings and weekends.

Sawyer filed a DBA after his business started generating revenues. He said he earned about $5,000 two years ago and $25,000 last year. He believes revenues this year may surpass last year’s.

At 35, he’s played tennis for most of his life. He started playing in high school and “realized that I loved it really quick.”

“I went to college [SUNY Oswego] just to play tennis,” he said. “I graduated with my degree, pretty good scores. I had nine different coaches in my eight semesters. One quit just two weeks in.”

As soon as he finished his four years playing at the college, he coached at the college for another four years.

He stepped down from the coaching position when he began his business.

“I went into business in 2015 right around there. In 2014, I started at the pharmacy; 2015 I started the business. It’s going well for nights and weekends — going really well. It’s expanding nicely.”

The COVID-19 pandemic held a silver lining for him, he said, because the government said, tennis was a safe sport to practice.

“So then, a bunch of people began to research how they could play tennis,” he said. “Most of my business has always been word of mouth. Kids would take lessons and people would ask them, ‘you’re getting a lot better, what are you doing?’  And they’d say, ‘I am taking lessons from this guy named Geoff.’ That is usually how my business spread — word of mouth like that.”

Another “cool thing,” he added, was Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped stringing racquets — “and they started referring people to me. I thought that was pretty crazy; you know, that a huge company like them would say, ‘you know who you should go to? This local guy down in Fulton.’ That was a pretty cool moment for me. I was like, ‘Huh, this is starting to be pretty big.’”

“It is already to the point where I could quit [my day job] and eventually live off it. Tightening the belt pretty bad — but you know it’s a thought in the back of my mind,” he said. “Work really hard for four months or so and I could get by with a part-time job for the winter.”

He currently coaches more than 30 people.

“I am working at both YMCAs — Fulton and Oswego — several schools and just this last year I got noticed and recruited by Elevate Fitness out in Liverpool. They hired me after seeing me play,” he said.

He has clients of all ages.

“I have all kinds of students. My youngest client is 3 and my oldest is 71 and 69. Some guys took some lessons from me. They just won a big event, so they are pretty pumped with themselves. They’ve been taking some lessons — trying to get better,” he said. “The majority is high schoolers, like taking private lessons and I do a lot of clinics and that’s bringing in a lot of the younger community — which is fantastic.”

A lot of the schools around here don’t have any feeder programs for their tennis teams.

There has been zero interest in kids trying out tennis teams because there is no one saying, ‘hey this is a fun sport, you should give it a try,’ according to Sawyer. So he helps get kids interested in the sport.

“Yes, it’s just me. I’m spread pretty thin at times,” he said. “I have a big calendar on my kitchen table. I try to mark down where I’m supposed to be. The head pharmacist is one of my good friends from junior high — he gives me a lot of flak if I mess up my hours there.”

Sawyer has “a very talented 7-year-old right now who is asking me to hit my full serves and stuff against him — he’s not running away and he is not bowing out.  He’s actually trying to return them. He’s putting me through the wringer already. He’s definitely got a chance at, you know, getting some college looks his way. He comes to all my kids’ clinics,” he said.

“I mostly just charge per lesson. The majority of my clients like to pick a time and they stick with that time each week,” he continued. “I have some that do bi-weekly if they can.

“I charge $25 for a private lesson and I do $20 per student for semi-private lesson — like if two kids from different families want to have lessons together then I just charge each family $20. All my clinics are $15 for the kids — it can be upwards of 20 kids. That would be a nice big group; fun for games. Average number is eight to 14, that’s usually what I get and I do those for an hour, hour and a half. Kids just come out and we have fun!”

He tries to give them a few pointers; “but mostly we just play a lot of games and get them having fun,” he said.

“Most of the new racquets — they are changing all the time — are graphite. Some were titanium, but they were a little heavy. One company is making racquets out of Kevlar — like the racquets are bullet proof,” he laughed. “They want some material that’s flexible, that will hold up to some damage, but also aren’t as stiff as some of the older racquets. All the steel and titanium racquets, they were like super durable. But they are heavy and increasing ‘tennis elbow.’ It was like hitting out there with a board.”