“As a coach, I have had the unique opportunity to impact multiple aspects of a child’s life. From the way they make their bed in the morning, to the way they carry themselves on the court or in social situations. Coaching is an interesting and complex career field; and this is probably why I have chosen it as my life’s work.
Parents initially bring their son or daughter and ask me to develop them into a superstar. What they get in the end is much different and ultimately, much more important. At HAT, students are taught the finer points of the game through our coaches’ specialized knowledge – technique, tactics, match play, fitness, nutrition, mental skills – but all of that pales in comparison to the importance and focus we place on the development of their character.”
“HAT participants are taught important lessons of life that are sometime lost on the younger generations:
The difference between spending their time and investing their time
Working for something through deliberate practice over a long period of time
Taking pride in their performance and completing tasks at a standard that is important to them
Helping and teaching those around them
Focusing on the process of improving rather than on the initial result
In the end, the result of these teachings is a student who truly knows who they are and what they are capable of.”
“Throughout my coaching career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be around, and work with, my students for long periods of time. In total, they have won 4 NCAA National Championships, 9 NCAA Conference Championships, 19 NCAA All-American honors, 7 High School State Champions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in College Scholarships. All of these accolades, though impressive, do not make me as proud as seeing one of my athletes become a great person. The true satisfaction lies in seeing an awkward teenager with no confidence develop into a leader who inspires others to do things better. Helping them learn and grow through the difficult times, and sharing in their successes when they reach the light at the end of the tunnel, makes all the late nights and early mornings worth it in the end.”
Miss-P is an ambitious student who has been with HAT since it’s inception. I remember Miss-P’s first practice vividly to this day as she enchanted us all as a smiling, ambitious 6th grader.
I will never forget that one specific moment during one of our very challenging fitness sessions ran by our Lead Fitness Expert, Coach Michael Farrington.
Ten minutes into the fitness portion of practice Miss-P was as white as a ghost, looked pale and seemed exhausted. One of our experts grew concerned and approached her to see if she needed a pause or a full stop break at which she said, “Nope, I’m good” and bravely continued with her fitness exercises.
A brave little fighter she was, and eventually made it to the last drill of the fitness session where we were doing wall sits. Miss-P’s legs were shaking and tears were welling up in her eyes as she resolutely rejected the idea of quitting.
When the session was over, it took nearly 15 minutes for her to recover from one of the toughest fitness sessions she had ever experienced at her young age. The entire staff was impressed by the will power, enthusiasm and passion Miss-P presented. On the other hand, we were also worried that the intense fitness session would scare her away from her future practice sessions. That is, until we all noticed her walking proudly to the car alongside her parents with a big smile on her face… she realized that she had just completed something immensely challenging which had made her better. She was profoundly satisfied… it was obvious, as she had accomplishment and satisfaction written all over her face. Her father, Pete [a former competitive rugby player], would later describe our program to others who were interested as “this place is not for sissies” … Miss-P surely is not a sissy!
Miss-P continued to return day after day improving her game and her fitness to levels she had never experience before. She was ALWAYS completely focused on what would help her improve to eventually play college tennis, and not distracted by what would give her instant short-term results. This focus was highlighted during some of her first tournaments as a HAT player. Leading up to the tournament Miss-P had been working hard on improving her serve, and like most players who have worked on improvements in their game, she failed miserably the first few times she put them into action under the pressure of a tennis match. Actually, she could hardly make a serve in the box… yet she kept trying. She was swinging through her serve focusing on perfecting her motion confidently, with proper technique. A focus on perfection, which she knew would pay off in the future. That day, Miss-P had a choice, and she chose to think forward and be patient in her development. Which is, you must agree, very wise and quite rare for her age. Through her resiliency Miss-P worked out the kinks and went on to eventually winning three tournaments in a row! Her game was just thriving and things were looking up, way up!
Throughout my life, I have rarely seen someone as happy and satisfied as Miss-P was at the end of her winning that first tournament. She has personally entrenched her parents and the entire HAT Community in a vibrating circle of satisfaction, pride and profound joy.
Later, Miss-P began to become less confident in her movement and began to play with a little less balance than we were use to seeing from her. You see, one thing I failed to mention was that Miss-P, previous to our program, had fought another battle with the tissue in her brain.
At age 5 she developed a brain tumor and had it successfully removed [the procedure, performed by the exceptional staff at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado is called a craniotomy and required Miss-P to endure 4 surgeries over 2 days]. Sadly, the malicious tumor had returned and Miss-P would have to once again return to the operating room.
When Miss-P awoke from her second round of surgeries she noticed something was wrong. She had lost her coordination to all the muscles on the right side of her body. Furthermore, she had trouble eating, her vision was blurry and she couldn’t write. Miss-P couldn’t walk, run or jump much less play tennis. Luckily, in Miss-P’s heart and brain, these predicaments and constraints had a curious side effect… Miss-P challenged herself and she immediately went to work. She wholeheartedly welcomed her rigorous therapy at the Children’s Hospital and she worked hard. Yes, she did, even though the doctors warned her that her remarkable progress might eventually plateau.
It was not surprising to see Miss-P returning to the tennis court. Except, things were much tougher this time around. All of the fundamentals, techniques and tactics she had learned she would have to start to relearn, without the expectation that she would ever become a great tennis player.
She had hit rock bottom with her tennis when she tried out for her High School tennis team that year. Pre-surgery she would have been one of the top singles players for the team, and now to her surprise and disappointment she was on the bottom tier playing mainly Junior Varsity. This determination provided Miss-P the sour reality that her dream of playing college tennis was not in the cards. She was devastated.
Miss-P even considered quitting her favorite sport for a while, taking prolonged breaks to try rowing, basketball, and other activities. However, she couldn’t get away from the feeling that she was missing out on all that tennis had given to her. She craved the day-to-day challenges and improvements where she was able to notice positive changes in her fitness and tennis skills.
Thankfully, Peyton has returned to the court where she now plays 4-5 days a week in the same challenging program with elite junior tennis players from Colorado and all around the world with that basic goal and expectation that she will improve each day, one day at a time, slowly, passionately… patiently.
Miss-P teaches us that this is not simply about tennis, but really it’s about all the lessons that tennis and any other competitive sport can teach us all in order to be highly successful in any endeavor. I, with 100% conviction, believe that Peyton, due to her ambition, passion, resiliency, and phenomenal character will be one of tomorrow’s prolific leaders. At HFAC, we say all the time to each and every student accepted into our program… you are whom you hang around, and we are tremendously honored to have the opportunity to be around Miss-P and such a wonderful community of students, parents, and coaches.
Ryan Segelke is the the CO-Founder & Director of High Altitude Tennis Academy in Colorado.
Here is a little insight into coach Segelke:
Q: You clearly love the game of tennis… What is it that attracted you to the game?
A: The self-accountability of it… If I lost, it was up to me to get back to the practice courts as soon as possible and improve; and if I won, I received all of the accolades. Because of this I really thrived, as frustrating as it was at times!
Q: What drew you to coaching?
A: I suppose I always knew that my late start in tennis would make it extremely difficult to become a successful professional player, so I began coaching early on. I loved, and still love, helping people get better on and off the court. There is something so intriguing about understanding each student’s personality and the nuances of what will get through to them effectively. What my true form of compensation has always been as a coach is seeing a student make a breakthough after the initial struggle; and most of all, when a student comes back after a number of years and lets you know that you made a difference for them.
Q: What is the mission of High Altitude Tennis Academy and how has it evolved since its inception?
A: The mission of the Academy is to put our students ahead of everything else. Our goal for each of our students is to utilize our “micro dynamic” tennis environment to teach each individual the life lessons that, when applied, will propel them to be tomorrows’ leaders and prolific contributors to society. Our staff is also expected to follow the standards set for our students. Otherwise, we become hypocrites.
In the beginning, we knew we wanted the Academy to be focused on elite junior training but we were giving lessons to everyone… adults, kids, teams, professionals- completely unfocused. Looking back, we made a lot of mistakes, however, it has been fun to learn and improve. We narrowed our focus, and today we have only programs serving aspiring junior players.
Q: You train coaches. You are taking steps to improve the level of training and education required for coaching, beginning with coaches employed by High Altitude Tennis. Many coaches are not looking to do more than receive the standard certifications. Do you think there will be a noticeable difference in junior athletes’ development and results?
A: Yes. I love training young coaches, in particular those who are ready to make an impactful difference and are really a blank canvas. What is rewarding for me is to teach tennis myself, however what is most rewarding is to develop a proven success system, like we have at the Academy, and teach coaches who will then influence many more students.
Q: You oversee player development. Is there a secret to developing successful players?
A: (smiling) – Yes. Character development, hard work, straightforward and loving honesty (with students and parents), and consistent repetition are the “secrets”, if you can call it that. There is no place for frustration and anger. It takes a focused, substantive plan to develop a great player. Our coaches develop a minimum of 2 game plans per day, typed up and sent to the entire staff, for the last 4 years! Not ONE singe practice has been “winged” or planned on the “fly”. This process actually allows us to have the flexibility to adjust game plans to match the individual needs of our students.
Q: High Altitude Tennis’ focus is more than winning trophies. Can you tell us more about why you would choose to partner with a non-profit?
A: In many ways, what we envisioned the Academy to be has come to fruition. We are lucky to have learned so much and been open to the many valuable lessons presented to us so that we could adapt and make the appropriate changes for High Altitude Tennis to be successful.
We know that we can make a much bigger difference partnered with a non-profit like The HAT FUND. First, we can accept students who do not currently have the means to afford an elite program like ours. It is extremely important to make this great game available to all young athletes who wish to play. Second, The HAT FUND has a network of incredible organizations providing not only industry leading athletic training like High Altitude Tennis Academy, but also educational resources like Growing Champions for Life, The Princeton Review, and Laurel Springs School allowing our students access to resources that will help them become great athletes, great students and most importantly great people.
This week addition to our weekly #StaffSpotlight- Kat Hutchinson, Lead Tennis Professional, HAT,Denver, Colorado.
Kat, a Michigan native, was a full scholarship student-athlete at Lake Superior State University. During her time at LSSU, Kat was a 2 year team captain and MVP and achieved the most career singles in in school history (96). Kat began as an intern the Summer of 2014 and has powerfully graduated through the ranks where she is now a HAT certified tennis professional.
NCAA Full Scholarship Student-Athlete
HAT Method Certified
Bachelor of Science in Exercise Health Science
Minor in Coaching
Associates in Health and Fitness Specialist
Kat’s view on HAT
I believe that HAT is on the right track to becoming one of the best tennis academies found across the nation and with the help of the HAT Fund I think we can really help a lot of kids out there who aren’t receiving the type of help and aid that they should be getting. With that help we can give them a different look at the world around them. We’re not just talking about coaching tennis but also mentoring and giving kids life skills that you don’t get by just being an athlete on the court. I was a late bloomer. I didn’t pick up my first tennis racket until I was 15 but I had three coaches who saw potential and drive in me. They were always around to hit with me, teach me, or help me in any way that I needed at the drop of a hat, no matter what time it was, and that’s why I’ve become the person that I am today and why I like being here, at HAT and the HAT Fund. I feel like I can give back and make a difference by being a great coach and mentor for the kids out there in need just like my coaches were for me.
Matthew picked up his first tennis racket at age seven. At the age of eight, he began spending a few hours each day at the local tennis rec. center. Recognizing Matthew’s increased interest and passion for the game, Mr. B (his father) and Mrs. B (his mom) wanted to expose Matthew to a more “professional” training environment, and that is when they found HAT!
We want him to play tennis pro. He loves tennis. His life is tennis.
While there are many caring parents who wish sports stardom for their children, there are really few who understand all of the hard work, investments, sacrifice, and drive that is required to succeed in any professional sport. In fact, Mr. B., had dreams of becoming an acrobat/artistic performer himself for the traveling circus in his birth nation of Mongolia. But, he was deterred by an unfortunate accident at age 4 that resulted in serious back injuries. Similarly to Mathew, Mr. B was passionately and determinedly focused on his circus acts, and after four years of purposeful preparation and dedicated training he managed to make his dream come true. Unfortunately, seven years into performing in his beloved circus Mr. B had to retire due to his ever-present back injury. However, as he is often sharing, “I had fun and lived those years wholeheartedly happy”.
In 1999, Mr. B migrated to the United States. After leaving the circus it was hard for him to find work in Mongolia due to the uncertainty of the political climate. Drawn to the peaceful life in America, Mrs. B soon followed and joined Mr. B in 2001. They haven’t returned to Mongolia since – they have found America to be a good place… a home with many advantages and possibilities for the future of their children.
Matthew came to love tennis… the game, the players, and everything connected to it. He puts in tremendous effort and works purposefully every day to become the best player that he can be. “It’s a good way to exercise. It makes me happy!” If you ask him who his favorite player is, he is likely to answer Roger Federer. “Federer is a strong hitter and has great footwork. I love his forehand.” Even at a young age, Matthew has set his sights very high. He wants to win many titles, such as Wimbledon and the French Open!
Native of Boston, Massachusetts, Leslie was a gifted student-athlete ranking top 10 nationally as a sprinter.
Leslie studied Liberal Arts at the University of Maryland then followed her passion for nutrition and hospitality attending Newbury College and graduating from Johnson and Whales University in Rhode Island.
Leslie taught private cooking classes, ran a home-based catering company and worked as a baker in a gourmet food shop in order to pay her way through school. After graduation she accepted a job as the head pastry chef for a Boston based catering company.
Returning to her love of athletics, Leslie spent several years coaching the girl’s high school track and field team in Cambridge, Massachusetts as well as developing into an enthusiastic player and avid fan of tennis.
Now a devoted wife and proud mother of 3 beautiful children, Leslie’s love of sport and commitment to improving the life experiences and expanding opportunities for children has contributed to the vision of High Altitude Tennis Academy.