BY SUE ERWIN – If you’re ready to step up your tennis game with a stronger swing and a crushing serve, you might want to think about talking with Skylar Warren, the assistant tennis pro at the Boca Grande Club.
Skylar has been playing tennis since he was in eighth grade.
“I grew up playing basketball and baseball, but when
I switched schools, the only friends I had were tennis players, so that’s kind of how I started,” he said. “I like the sport because it’s all on the player — if you win, it’s all the more glory for you, and if you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
Skylar was born in Huntington Beach, California. His parents began moving toward the East coast when he was very young. They lived in Boulder, Colorado, Kansas City and eventually moved to Asheville, North Carolina when he was in fourth grade. His mother, Laura, currently lives in Asheville.
Skylar attended AC Reynolds High School in Asheville. He basically learned the game of tennis on his own without any formal coaching. Playing daily games and matches with his friends, he got better at the sport and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play in college.
He attended Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, where he received very good coaching and improved his game even more.
Skylar studied accounting in school, and after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management, he was asked by the athletic director to coach at the college when the current coach resigned. He was 22 and the youngest head coach the school ever had. He did that for three years and said it felt a little strange to be coaching players older than he was at the time.
“It’s a small school and it was a great experience … I was really glad to have that opportunity,” he said.
Then he was offered a job at the Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“And that’s where my wife (Lyndsay) and I still live in the summer months,” he said.
Skylar and Lyndsay met in college and were married two years ago. They played on the tennis team together, which is how they met.
Skylar met H, Boca Grande Pass Club Tennis Pro, at the club he works at in the summer in North Carolina. They worked across the street from each other and met at a tournament.
“His assistant played for me at Lees-McRae. We have a great relationship, and he has taught me a lot about how to be a good tennis pro. He became my mentor and invited me to visit Boca Grande,” Skylar said.
Skylar came to the island a couple of times to help H out at the Pass Club during the busy months. Last year he worked for two months at the Pass Club when H’s former assistant, Steve, suffered an injury.
Then the position opened up at Boca Grande Club, and H encouraged Skylar to apply for it.
Now he is here for the full season, November through April.
Most of his mornings are spent leading tennis clinics at the club. He also does clinics for children during winter, spring and summer breaks. Each day is different, and the clinics change week to week. He also does private lessons.
Skylar works six days a week during the busy times and sometimes up to ten hours a day.
“It all depends on the clients and how many people want to participate in the clinics or lessons,” he said.
The youngest child he has ever worked with was three years old. He said that depending on the child, some can handle it and others just aren’t ready for it.
“Sometimes we do tennis/pizza/movie nights from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., which is a great time for the parents to take a break,” Skylar said.
He works with one client who is 90 years old.
“He’s super sharp, and sometimes he is able to out-think the younger players, which is fun to watch,” he said.
Skylar said the club staff members play exhibition tournaments on the weekends, and that usually draws a crowd.
He prefers playing doubles as opposed to singles. “I’m just a better doubles player these days,” he said.
According to Skylar, there are life lessons that can be learned through the game of tennis. “It’s more of a mental game than other kinds of team sports. You are out on the court by yourself, without the benefit of using time-outs or personal coaching.
“Even at the highest level, you are calling your own shots. And you have to learn to be humble, especially when you lose, because there isn’t anyone else to blame. And it’s a lifelong game, where age doesn’t matter, because you can always improve if you are playing someone at your level or better.”
Skylar has recognized that sometimes people choose to use the sport as therapy, and they just want to hit the ball as hard as they can for 30 minutes. And they usually end up leaving the court feeling great.
After season ends here, he’ll travel to Linville, North Carolina to work another shorter season as the director of tennis at the Grandfather Golf and Country Club from June through August.
“It’s nice, because between each transition we have a few weeks off to enjoy a vacation,” he said. “We love it here, but we also miss home. so it’s really great to be able to work in both places.”
Skylar had never been to Florida before coming to Boca Grande.
“If you’re involved in the game of tennis in any way, I think sooner or later you find yourself coming to Florida,” he said. “It really is like the tennis capital of the world.”
He recalls when H would tell him stories about Boca Grande and show him pictures of the area.
“I remember the first time I came here and drove over the bridge — I had never seen water so beautiful — I just thought it was incredible,” he said.
Skylar and Lyndsay currently live in Placida Point. They have one dog, Bella, an Old English sheep dog.
When Skylar is not working, he enjoys traveling to different areas in Florida. He noticed that on the eastern coast of the state, the game of tennis is more competitive and serious. He likes it better here, because while most players want to improve their game, they still have a relaxed attitude about it and enjoy themselves more.
“I knew the first time I came here and went to The Pass Club with H that I wanted to work here. I think it’s a good match for me,” he said.
The tennis pro also enjoys playing golf in his spare time, and he completed his first half-marathon last summer.
He also enjoys cooking. He is the oldest of six kids, and he grew up making lunches and dinners for his siblings while his parents were at work.
His siblings all live in North Carolina. From oldest to youngest, they are: Edge, Raine, Road and twins Dallas and Montana.
“As you can guess by their names, my parents were California hippies,” he said with a laugh. “They had six kids in six years.”
Look for Skylar at the island tennis tournaments, or catch him competing in an exhibition game one of these weekends.