By Tommy Keeler Jr. - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Mats Wilander asked one of the junior tennis players "Are you done?" as they were hitting volleys and overheads in a clinic at the Winchester Country Club on Saturday. "You didn't move your feet, so you're done," Wilander then added.
That was one of the main messages the seven-time grand slam tennis champion from Sweden was trying to get across to the eight youths who took part in one of three clinics held at the country club.
Wilander's organization Wilander On Wheels or WOW travels around the country doing clinics at clubs throughout the year. He along with his partner, Cameron Lickle, travel across the country in their Winnebago giving clinics to help players with their games.
"The sport has given me a lot," Wilander said after the juniors clinic Saturday. "It's given me my wife, given me my kids, my friends, my house, my everything. And I guess I'm giving back to the sport in a way. But I'm giving back to the game. I love the game itself.
"I think its a brilliant invention, all of it. The distance, the lines, the scoring, the me and you kicking the [heck] out of each other and then being friends afterwards. It's a fun recreational sport."
WOW came about a few years ago after Wilander and Lickle first met. Wilander had been giving clinics, along with former pro Mikael Pernfors, once a year in Burlington, Vt., but one of the groups that usually came there from Las Vegas decided they couldn't come because of how expensive it was traveling across the country.
So, Wilander decided that he would travel from his home in Sun Valley, Idaho to Las Vegas to do a clinic for the group there. A few weeks later, Wilander noticed Lickle playing at the club in Sun Valley. Lickle is a former top college player from the Naval Academy. Wilander asked Lickle to hit with him one morning, and the two became instant friends.
Wilander told Lickle about his planned trip to Las Vegas, and Lickle thought it was a great idea.
"He and his buddy, Mikael Pernfors, were talking and I wrote down everything that they said and went the next day to a coffee bean and wrote up a business plan," Lickle said. "And then bought the company name on the next day out of Delaware, and we did our first gig in Las Vegas."
Once they did the clinic in Las Vegas, they knew they wanted to do more of them.
The business took off, and now they do clinics about 10 days out of each month. They travel in the Winnebago, which Lickle called "Wildmobile", from one clinic to the next and try to stay in the same region for a week at a time.
Lickle said the pair had been on the road for a week before coming to Winchester on Saturday, the last day of the current trip. The pair will take the next week off, and then head to Paris for the French Open in 10 days, where Wilander will commentate for European TV channel Eurosport.
Lickle said things have taken off so much that they now have two Winnebagos.
"Now we have a fleet," Lickle said with a laugh. "We just bought the new rig. We brought it up from Alvarado, Texas. Now we have 'Wildmoble 2' and 'Wildmobile 1' is on the West Coast."
The several different packages they offer for each club, ranging anywhere from two 1.5 hour clinics per day to as many as four one-hour and 15-minute clinics per day. Usually each clinic consists of eight people. They also do private events and pro-ams.
"Our bread and butter has been the eight people to a session, but sometimes people hire us for private events," Lickle said. "We come to your backyard. We've been anniversary gifts, even birthday presents."
For the clinic at the Winchester Country Club there were three 1 1/2 hour clinics. The first one in the morning was for ladies, the second one was for junior players and the third were for some of the higher caliber men at the club.
For the junior session, they did various drills working on each part of the game. Wilander would take four of the juniors on one of the clay courts, while Lickle would take the other four on the clay court beside it.
Anytime they would see something they could correct they would quickly step in and give the youngsters advice.
Getting youngsters to move their feet is one of the biggest things the pair finds most youths need to work on, and Lickle said he can relate to that.
"When I was their age I remember I didn't think I was good enough to move my feet," Lickle said. "I thought the guy across the net from me was going to make fun of me, like 'who do you think you are? You're moving your feet like you're a pro.'
"And I have no idea if that's what they think, but I know that's what I felt. And I could've been so much better as a junior, if I had just done that and engaged it more."
While Wilander and Lickle were quick to give tips, they made sure to do it in a polite way, so the youngsters wouldn't get discouraged.
When one of the juniors missed an overhead, Wilander told them "Just like [former pro and 14-time grand slam champion Pete] Sampras. He mistimed that too, sometimes."
The teaching style of Wilander and Lickle definitely worked for the juniors on Saturday.
"I thought it was really cool," Handley junior Jessie Nolan said. "I've never done anything like this before and they did a great job with commenting on our technique. And they were quick to notice any flaws we had in our game and it helped a lot. They were positive and they were always telling us to be aware of what's going on, and don't worry about the last shot that you missed just focus on the next one."
Getting to hit with Wilander was a great experience for the juniors, and even in a short time they learned a lot from him and Lickle.
"This was a really fun experience for me, something I'll remember for a while," Sherando senior Trey Scott said.
Winchester Country Club head tennis pro Jim Scott said the club where he grew up at had a clinic similar to this when he was a youth and he's always wanted to have one in Winchester.
"It's a great thing to bring to the community, get people fired up," Jim Scott said. "Not everyone gets to go watch someone play. So, any chance you have to bring someone of that caliber here is amazing."
For Wilander and Lickle the most important thing is for the players at the clinics to have fun, and continue to have a love for the game.
"Honestly its seeing how excited people are at the end, and seeing them smile about the tennis," Lickle said of his favorite part of doing the clinics.
"The overall message is to play tennis and to have fun," Wilander said. "But more importantly, respect the game and your opponent. Don't go out and just bang away. If you have an opponent, pay attention to them. This is a good time to learn about other human beings. Are they strong, weak? What's happening on the other side.
"It's like driving a car. I'm not going to hit a tree, but there might be another guy hitting me, so pay attention. It's the same thing. So the message is really pay attention to your surroundings when you play tennis."