PROFILE: John Janes

May 23, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY T MICHELE WALKER – For those who want to see the world, there are many professions to choose from. Travel is one of the advantages of a career in the military, flight attendant, cruise ship worker, or foreign service officer. You can add to that list, tennis pro.

For John Janes, tennis pro at The Boca Grande Club, traveling the world was one of the happy advantages of the job.

“I coached a player in Austria,” John explained, “so, I lived in Vienna for a while. I coached on tours and did some traveling through Europe when I was coaching, so I’ve been very lucky to spend about a year and a half to two years traveling and coaching players on tour. I was fortunate enough to live in Vienna with a family, so I got to see more of Vienna than the other places, where I was more of a tourist. Leon, France, and Vienna are gorgeous and probably my favorite places that I’ve ever visited.”

Little did John know at age 6 when he hit his first tennis ball, that it would be such a fortuitous decision.

“There’s been a lot of tennis balls picked up and a lot of tennis balls hit in my life,” John said with a laugh. “Growing up in Chicago, I was raised in an athletic family and we all grew up playing sports. In high school I played golf, I played basketball and I played tennis. I just kind of excelled a little more at tennis. I loved all the sports and I love golf and basketball, but as I got better at tennis, I started leaning more that way. I still love playing all the sports but I was a little better in tennis, so I started to focus more on tennis as I got older.”

John was influenced by the professional tennis players of his day. “When I was young, I was fascinated by the rivalry of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. I would spend hours hitting balls against the side of my house pretending I was both of them. Because at that time I was a little shy, I gravitated toward Borg because of his even temperament. They were both very influential to me at a young age.”

Born and raised in Chicago, John was not a fan of the cold temperatures of the Windy City. “I hated the cold. I knew at an early age that I wasn’t going to stay there, so I played tennis at Auburn. The girl I was dating at Auburn, her dad was director of tennis at a club in Sarasota, so I graduated from Auburn, went to work for him in Sarasota and never looked back.”

John didn’t marry the girl, but he is still great friends with her father to this day.

“I’ve been in Sarasota since 1994 and I have been a director of tennis at The Oaks and a couple of clubs in Sarasota,” he said. “Throughout the years I’ve become very tight in that community. I’ve been in Florida now probably longer than anywhere else.”

With an appreciation for warm weather and travel, tennis was the perfect career choice for John.

“I like to travel and I always like to be outdoors, doing things like kayaking, paddle boarding, golf, tennis. That’s the Florida lifestyle I have always loved.”

John’s bucket list reads like a travelogue.

“First on my list is South Africa,” he said. “I’ve never been to South Africa and I would love to do a safari, great white shark diving, all of those things. I do like wine destinations, and I’ve never been to Sonoma, never been Napa, never been to Burgundy or Bordeaux, so I would like to go to some of those areas at some point.”

Adventurous not only with travel but with food, John sounds like he would be a great substitute host of “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern. “I think I’m pretty adventurous with food. I like Peruvian food and I like to experiment. What’s so much fun about food and wine are the endless varieties and choices. It’s such a reflection of the locale. I go through different phases of experimentation. I just love it when you travel and to go to Charleston and to go to places that are within range here, like Savannah, New Orleans, and Miami. I find the food in all the cities just spectacular and so different. It’s such a fun part of the culture and a way to immerse yourself in their way of life.”

His bucket list is long but doable. “South America, Central America, Europe, never been to Africa, never been Australia, or New Zealand. I would love to do Australia, but it seems like it’s just such a journey. If you go, you’ve got to block off a lot of time.”

Finding Boca Grande, just as finding Sarasota, came about with a little help from his friends.

“H and I have known each other for more than 20 years,” he said. “The club where I worked in Nantucket, H was there for 11 years. When he decided to leave, I was in Sarasota and he recommended me for that position. That’s how I ended up in Nantucket for the last eight years and how I came here.”

Boca Grande reminds John of life on Nantucket.

“Nantucket’s bigger, but the same there is no fast food, no stoplights … it’s the same type of quaint and charming town. I just feel very blessed, very lucky, that we have this beautiful and friendly environment.”

Boca Grande’s tennis community is tight-knit.

“The island is so small, and the tennis community is so small, so the pros know each other,” he said. “It’s very supportive and not contentious at all. We feel like we’re truly all so lucky to be on the island together.”

As much as John enjoys Nantucket, this is the first year he will be staying in Florida for the summer.

“I’ve decided to stay here and I’m going to teach a little bit here in the summer, teach a little bit in Sarasota and take some time off.”

John is divorced with no children, but currently has a girlfriend, Tina von Kessel.

“We’ve been together for six years and she has a son and a daughter that I’m very close to. Her son just graduated from college and her daughter just finished her first year at West Florida University of West Florida Pensacola.”

It’s through Tina’s daughter, who is an actress, that John has discovered another joy; going to the theater. “I really enjoy going to her productions,” he said, fondly.

On a typical day off, one will find Tina and John outdoors, enjoying the Florida sun.

“We love to go to restaurants and we walk our dog,” he said. “Tina is very active, and she likes to play tennis. If I’m not too sore and not too beat up from tennis that day, we will do things outside. We don’t watch a lot of television, and we’re both not into social media. Being outside and spending time together is what we enjoy.”

John is looking forward to the season next year at Boca Grande.

“I think next year is going to explode,” he predicts. “This year we did not allow rentals through the heart of the season, so it was only homeowners and their family members that could be here. When we bring the rentals back, and when we bring our members that didn’t come down this year, everybody will be just itching to go, go, go. I’m anticipating the program to get even bigger.”