Don Brosseau

Teaching Pro Spotlight – Don Brosseau

It’s rare to find a tennis instructor who still teaches on the same exact courts where he learned to play the game as a young adult, but that’s the case with Don Brosseau.

For parts of the past 51 years — with stops in between at places like New York City, Munich, Germany, Lake Tahoe and Tampa, Fla. — Brosseau has been a familiar face at the Griffith Park tennis courts in Los Angeles, first logging hours and hours learning the game as a teenager, to presently teaching on a full-time basis on the courts for the past 10 years.

“I do still very much enjoy it,” said Brosseau, now 66. “I have a couple of kids who play high school tennis, and two that have sectional rankings in the top 100. I have a couple of eight- and 10-year-olds that I’m just trying to get to understand simple concepts.”

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Brosseau, who coached noted tour coach Paul Annacone as a junior and later when he reached a career-high No. 12 in the world on the pro tour, said he wishes some of his students spent more hours on the court. “One problem is that kids don’t get to play enough,” he said. “When we were kids we would get sent to the park and do our own thing. Kids don’t do that anymore. Everything is appointment based. I just wish they would go hit against the wall, but people don’t want to leave their kids out. When I was young I would take a bag of balls, have a quarter for a Coke and I’d go to the park and spend the day playing tennis.”

Brosseau was a late comer to the game and stumbled upon the courts at Griffith Park after getting cut from the freshman and JV baseball team his first two years at Loyola High School.

Before his junior year, Brosseau thought he’d try out for the tennis team. “One of my friends got a letterman’s jackets for playing tennis and I thought it would be cool to be a jock,” Brosseau said. “I started picking up balls to get a free lesson from the teaching pro there, Gordon Sears and the guy I replaced was Randy Kramer, who became the Racket Doctor. ”

He added: “So there I was, 6-feet tall, a 16 year-old, hanging out at the park and picking up balls for a free lesson. And I didn’t even make the junior varsity tennis team my junior year.”

But Brosseau was determined to keep working on his game daily, sometimes playing two tournaments in one weekend. He eventually played No. 2 on the varsity for Loyola his senior year. And just two years after that he was beating All-Americans in college and was the only player to get a set off of Tom Gorman at the prestigious Ojai Tournament.

“People wouldn’t play with me when I was a junior,” he said. “I mean, I was terrible. My mom would give me a potato sack of balls and I would go over and hit serves. I developed a big serve and later that made a big difference.”

Playing for Harvey Mudd College in the late 1960s, Brosseau moved up to No. 1  by his junior year and he estimates he posted a 21-3 record with wins at the top spot against teams like Pepperdine, Cal Poly, Sand Diego State and Air Force.

His biggest win came against Doug Verdieck who won singles, doubles and team championships during his years at Redlands and was a NAIA top-five collegiate All-American.

“That was about the equivalent of our basketball team beating UCLA,” Brosseau said. “Plus, I was going to engineering school. He was my biggest rival. I beat him on our courts, and he beat me on his. And then he beat me in the semifinals at Nationals something like 14-12, 6-3.”

Brosseau would graduate with his Bachelor of Science in 1970 and would later earn an M.BA. from UCLA with an emphasis in finance and accounting. In 1989, Brosseau earned a doctorate degree from Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles and also a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology.

In November of 1971 Brosseau was hired by Vic Braden to be the Director of Texas-based Tennis International’s American Tennis Center at Stadium Tennis Center across from Yankee Stadium in New York City. Brosseau also worked with another legendary coach Dennis Van der Meer both in Lake Tahoe in 1968 and running his adult tennis camp in Bridgehampton, N.Y., in 1974.

At the same time he was working across from Yankee Stadium, Brosseau was the head pro at Vanderbilt Racquet Club in Grand Central Station. “I actually lived in Grand Central Station (in the club) my first six months in New York,” he said. “I literally lived in a closet.”

He added: “I wasn’t a UCLA or USC player; I was the Division III kids from Harvey Mudd. But when I got to New York I was one of the best players around. There weren’t many tennis players.

Soon after he arrived, Brosseau found himself among tennis royalty. In 1971, many newly termed pros would come through New York as part of a challenge match series eventually won by Rod Laver.

“We had two indoor courts and it happened to be the same surface as they were playing on at Madison Square Garden the next night. I was like a kid in a candy store. I ended up getting to play with Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston, Clark Graebner, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Ken Rosewall. I actually got to be a practice partner for them when I would have paid any of them to hit with me.”

In the mid-1970s, Brosseau became the head pro at the Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club at the Hamptons on Long Island, N.Y.

He would late serve as the tournament director for the prestigious Huggy Bear Tournament under the direction of Ted Forstmann, who passed away in 2011.

“In the 15 years I worked on the tournament they netted more than $15 million for children’s charities,” Brosseau said.

Brosseau looks back on his full career with few regrets. He concluded: “I always have a soft spot for the kids who came to the game late and are trying to catch up.  Because I did it. I mean, I didn’t make it as a pro but I was a very successful amateur and NAIA (Division III today) player. I was pretty good and I won most of my matches.”

To reach Brosseau, simply dial (not text) **tennispro, and you will receive his contact information.

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