Life has a unique way of bringing us back to where we are supposed to be, and no matter where you travel to; oftentimes you can end up returning home.
That certainly applies to Ken Feuer, the Director of Player Development at SPORTIME Syosset, the Long Island Annex of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. A native of Massapequa, Feuer was one of the top junior players on Long Island growing up.
“I came from a big tennis family. My uncle owned Seaford Tennis, which was a five-court facility, where I grew up playing with my cousins and my brother,” Feuer recalls. “After he sold the facility, I played the rest of my junior career at Port Washington Tennis Academy.”
Feuer would reach the top world ranking in 10 & Under and even got to play a match, the finals of a tournament, at Madison Square Garden prior to a New York Apples World Team Tennis match.
“It was against Chris Garner, who is now the men’s coach at Navy,” he said. “He was one of the best junior players to come out of Long Island. It was a pretty cool experience to play at MSG.”
His junior accolades would land him a full scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A successful college player, Feuer would compete in the NCAA Tournament one year, and after he graduated he stayed in Lincoln and served as the program’s assistant coach.
After a few years on the Nebraska coaching staff, Feuer got an offer to become the head pro at Shelter Rock Tennis & Country Club, where he would also serve as the Interim Director, which brought him back to Long Island.
“I was working primarily with country club players, but it’s also where I met Mike Kossoff,” he said. “He was a junior player at the time, and I had experience working with junior and college players. His father called me and we began working together. It was great to work with a top junior player again. We grew to know each other, and it would become pivotal in what would eventually bring me back full circle.”
But Feuer would not remain on Long Island permanently, as after his time at Shelter Rock he took a position working as the Executive Vice President at his family’s commercial parts and services company, which at the time was based in New Orleans and Shreveport in Louisiana.
“My wife and I moved down to New Orleans, which is where our two children were born,” said Feuer. “I spent much of my time traveling between New Orleans and Shreveport, focusing on sales operations and business development. But after a few years, my dad got sick and sold the company, which threw us into a bit of tail spin. So we moved out west to Arizona, where my parents had retired.”
It’s then that, after a few years away from it, Feuer returned to the tennis industry, and opened up his own academy in Arizona.
“My daughters were starting to play tennis, and I wanted them to have a place to train. We had a pretty good academy with a lot of good junior players,” he recalls. “I was traveling to national tournaments with my kids and other junior players, and would sometimes notice a New Yorker in the draw. Because I remained in touch with Kossoff, I would call him and ask what coach would be at the tournament, and oftentimes it was him, sometimes Greg Lumpkin or Eric Meditz, who were all coaches at SPORTIME. I was getting to know those guys more and we remained in touch.”
And those close relationships are what would eventually bring Feuer back, as he says, and return home to Long Island. The tennis industry slowed down in Arizona, his top juniors were graduating and the 10 & Under programs were slowly drying up.
“I could see the writing on the wall, and as I was continuing to talk to Mike [Kossoff] over the years, he was trying to get me to come back and work with him,” said Feuer. “The timing was right. A position opened up at SPORTIME, I had developed a relationship with the coaches here and I thought it would be a great fit to come back and develop some players. I know New York like the back of my hand, and I had a trust factor with Mike, so he thought it was the right fit.”
That familiarity, coupled with Feuer’s expertise, made it an easy choice for Kossoff.
“Similar to how I brought Jay Harris to SPORTIME, who happened to be my college coach, when the opportunity arose to bring back one of my old junior coaches to New York again, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “Ken is one of the best technical coaches in the country and I knew he would thrive here on Long Island at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. He isn’t just one of my assistant directors at JMTA but he is also our Director of Player Development, so he is overseeing everyone’s tournament schedules as well as organizing weekly verified UTR matches to ensure our academy players are getting enough match play.”
Feuer began his role last summer and couldn’t be happier with how it is going. He also mentions the added bonus of being able to watch his daughters play college tennis— Hailey is a junior at Baruch College and Jaiden will be signing with Adelphi University.
“I’ve coached in many different states, and have obtained a lot of great information, which has helped me evolve as a coach,” he said. “Here, we have a customized plan for each individual player. The one thing I’ve learned is how crucial it is for a player to be in a good tennis environment for them to develop their game. Everything clicks when there is a great environment to learn, and that’s what SPORTIME and JMTA have created. We have an open dialogue with every coach, we help each other out in that way...We trust each other, so I can give another coach feedback, and vice versa. It’s my job to make sure the players here are really getting the full coaching treatment, and that’s really what’s going to continue making us a better program, and providing the right environment.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.