Teaching Pro Spotlight: Mike Van Zutphen
When Mike Van Zutphen decided to head west for the cool and breezy climate of Huntington Beach and became the Director of Tennis at the SeaCliff Country Club six years ago, he said farewell to the familiar and much, much warmer temperatures of the Phoenix, Ariz., area.
Van Zutphen, who played baseball and basketball as a youngster, came upon the game later than most, but has progressed over the years to become one of the most prolific tennis teaching pros to ever come out of the USTA Southwest Section.
The 64-year-old Van Zutphen has been a five-time USTA Southwest Professional of the Year and is also one of only 140 USPTA Certified Master Professionals in the world. He is the author of 11 books on tennis teaching and instruction.
“When I was a kid I would ride my bike 35 miles to take a half-hour lesson,” Van Zutphen said of his humble beginnings in the sport he has dedicated his life to. “I’d ride on the dirt roads through the Indian Reservations to get there quicker.”
Later, his mother would shuttle him to lessons in Paradise Valley where he became fascinated with how the game was taught by those giving him lessons.
Over time, Van Zutphen was able to work teaching clinics with his “heroes”, including Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Vic Braden and Dennis Van Der Meer.
Named the 2015 California USPTA Professional of the Year, Van Zutphen, along with Tom Breece, developed the Arizona Tennis Association, the second largest community tennis association in the United States, in 1987.
He calls himself a USPTA “lifer” having been involved with the tennis teaching organization for the past 30 years, and current serves as the USPTA President of the California Division. He is also a member of the USPTA Tennis Teachers Hall of Fame.
Van Zutphen said the USPTA has changed over the years, and pros are no longer forced to sit through hours of testing using pencil and paper.
“The testing requirements are less much demanding now,” said Van Zutphen, who has spent the last 10 years on the USPTA testing committee and is the head tester for the California Division. “They used to be almost all essays and took four hours. Now it’s 80 questions and multiple choice and you have an hour and a half. It’s more of an online effort and we are moving away from paper and toward the tablets.”
Van Zutphen has worked with two past NCAA national champions and former Junior Wimbledon winner Wesley Whitehouse.
He played World TeamTennis for Phoenix Racquets and also worked with the former Stanford University All-American Pat Dupre, who achieved an ATP world ranking of No. 12 and had wins over John McEnroe.
“I enjoy teaching all levels of players from tiny tots to young up and coming stars,” he said. “The method of progressions I use can and does developing players quickly. The majority of my lessons are club players who want to climb the NTRP ladder to the next level.”
Van Zutphen’s core teaching philosophy states that each stage of development for a player is important for him to get better in the game. “The coach that can help a student and keep them in tennis is helping the game,” Van Zutphen’s philosophy states. “The best coach can diagnosis and cure and follow an effective plan with progressions to help the student learn and retain the information given. He can communicate well with enthusiasm, clarity and brevity following a outline or stated plan organized in logical steps that challenges the student and achieves success.”
It concludes: “This coach can keep the student moving and also learning with good action and explanation when necessary to maximize time efficiently. This is planned development organized and structured.”
For more information about Van Zutphen go to his website here: www.minutetennis.com.