Making a good living as a tennis player is reserved for only the rarest of athletes. But it’s far from the only career option in an industry wide open to those with a steadfast work ethic, and a passion for the game.
Florida’s Robert Gomez is one such person.
Gomez, now 51, came to the sport late. He was 15 when took his first tennis lesson at his local club. When he got the bill – $35 for the hour – he nearly fainted.
“Back then, $35 covered a whole season of baseball.” Gomez recalled. It was out of his financial reach, so Gomez worked out a deal. If he came out after school and did work around the club, he would get a lesson every day.
Right there, the seed was planted about what it took to become a successful tennis facility operator.
“I was really young, but I got to learn early on all that went in to making a facility function well. There’s so much to be done behind the scenes. On top of that, from my own personal experience, I got to see the importance of incentivizing kids to work hard for everything,” Gomez said. “I don’t believe in handouts, but I will always help out a kid with the right attitude with a drive to succeed.”
Gomez’s career took off almost immediately. His coaches saw he had a knack for teaching; he quickly was offered a teaching pro position at the historic Fountainbleau hotel in Miami. “I was 17 years old and making $250 a week, cash. Talk about living the dream! That was real money for a kid my age,” he said.
He first cut his teeth as a facility operator at 21, when he ran a six-court facility at the Boys & Girls Club of Miami. He currently is in his 11th year as professional tennis operations supervisor for the city of Coral Gables, Florida.
Gomez currently runs two successful facilities: the William H. Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center, and the Salvadore Park tennis center. He oversees a total of 13 hard courts, 10 clay courts, 15 coaches and 200 weekly students.
Gomez’s on-court impact
He may not be a household name, but one of his players is well known: 2015 Wimbledon doubles champion Jean-Julien Rojer. Gomez’s junior players have achieved success, too. They have won a total of 23 USTA gold balls, awarded to winners of national championships. His players also have earned $3.2 million in college scholarships.
Gomez won the Florida Touring Coach of the year award in 2014 and the Florida Junior Development Coach of the year award in 2008. Last year, he also was awarded the Florida Facility Manager of the year award. Gomez also sits on the board of the USTA Florida Coaches Commission. And he has served for a decade on the state’s Junior Competitive Committee.
The father of Ana, 10 and Ava, 8, Gomez continues his quest to improve as he works on coaching education through the USTA and USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association). He’s a shining example of tennis success, earned the hard way.