Cary Cohenour, founder and head coach of Sarasota’s Celsius Tennis Academy, was recently named the United States Tennis Association’s Florida Junior Competitive Coach of the Year. Of the 500 players he has helped get involved in tennis, more than 300 have become competitive tennis players.
What got you into tennis?
It was kind of the thing to in my neighborhood. I grew up in Bradenton and started going to Bollettieri at about 9 or 10 years old. One of my first coaches basically told my dad it was going to be a good sport for me, and I should get into it and take it seriously. With tennis, it’s not a sport where you can be seasonal. You have to dedicate yourself full-time if you want to compete at a high level.
Who was your first coach?
Doug Smith, then it was Nick Bollettieri from age 10 to 17 — that’s when I went off to college on scholarship to University of Tennessee. After that, I played on tour for four to five years professionally and got up to (the rank of) 270 in the world. It helped me as a coach. Having had that experience and having traveled and done those things helped me to understand what these kids are going through.
Who is your tennis idol?
Nick Bollettieri. I was one of first groups that came through the academy. Everybody was fighting for his attention. Now that I’m a coach and have my own tennis academy, I appreciate what he went through. He’s still working so hard at the age of 80. That’s the kind of person I look up to.
What keeps you playing?
The great part of tennis is that physically and mentally it’s a great sport and really challenges you. Physically, it’s one of the better sports as far as working all of your body parts. It keeps you fit, and it’s exciting. I see kids putting it on the line in every match. You’re alone, so that makes it more demanding. I try to instill this in kids and players that it’s going to help them more in life to become competitive in whatever field they decide to go into — it’s a great stepping stone for that.