Teaching Pro Spotlight: Scott Burton
A deep-seated passion for the game of tennis from a longtime teaching pro has led to a re-awakening in the tennis-rich town of Ojai.
Officially on the job for 11 months, Scott Burton now runs all the tennis programming for the City of Ojai and its Parks and Recreation Department, and has turned the small town in Ventura County known for its famous century-old tennis tournament into a hotbed for the future of tennis in the Ojai Valley.
“We’ve been able to double our numbers in terms of participation in just under a year,” Burton said. “I’m passionate when I’m on the court so I think that’s why people gave me a chance here. And the level of the play over at the park has really bumped up a few notches with some newer, modern techniques. I think that has to do with my passion of continuing education as a tennis teaching professional.”
Burton has served on the Southern California’s prestigious United States Professional Tennis Association’s Executive Board of Directors for the past six years. He started as a Vice President of the Central Coast Division. After just one year he was promoted to District 1 President.
“Because I’m on the Board of the USPTA it allows me access to continuing education, so I make the most of it,” said Burton, formerly the boys’ head tennis coach and girls’ assistant at Thacher School who also served 16 years with the City of Ventura. “As District 1 President I was in charge of providing the curriculum to the certified professionals in our area. We continue to certify and insure all the local pros.”
It was that passion for tennis that led Burton back to the game years after he had discovered it growing up in what he describes as “the barrio” of Van Nuys in the Valley.
As a manufacturing engineer, he was not fulfilled. “It just wasn’t something I was passionate about so I got out,” said Burton, an accomplished skier who at one time lived in Mammoth Lakes with the hopes of becoming a professional downhill skier. “Tennis is what I’m passionate about. So now I live my dream.”
He continued: “Working at a park setting is something I’m really passionate because I grew up less fortunate. The Parks and Rec departments are near and dear to me because it truly is grassroots tennis. As a Junior, couldn’t compete with the kids at the top of Mulholland Drive who had their own tennis court and coaches. Upon earning my teaching credentials, my heart pushed me to the parks. The fences are very low in Parks & Recreation. Fences at private clubs are just to steep for many less fortunate. ”
Burton, who was voted California’s 2013 USPTA Pro of the Year by his peers, said he was offered a head pro teaching job in the Seattle area last year, but with two high-school aged daughters decided to remain in Ojai.
Burton’s first tennis coach at Van Nuys High also happened to be his math teacher, former USC Trojans player Jim Buck.
“He kicked me off the team a few times, but we are good friends today,” Burton said with a laugh. “Of course Annette and Cari Buck [of the SCTA] have been fantastic to me. I’ve got 30 years of Bucks in my life.”
Burton said when he interviewed for the Ojai City job, he was reminded how deep the roots of the game go.
“They said, ‘We take tennis pretty seriously here in Ojai,’ ” Burton recalled. “Not only have I played in The Ojai, but coached many students, I’ve come full circle where now I’m a servant to the tournament as a facilities manager and training the ball kids. It’s the one thing I haven’t done. I was nervous. I was more nervous than the ball kids in training because I wanted to do it differently, I wanted to put my mark on it and it just worked out famously.”
Burton concluded: “My passion is to instill a legacy and a future with the children. The future of our game relies on these children and so if we can provide them with the opportunity now, then they are going to have a game for the rest of their lives.”