New tennis pro brings world of knowledge

By MARK HUNTER

Daily News Sports Reporter

Kelly Hubbard has been around the world to coach tennis, but his new job is what he might consider a dream position.

Hubbard, 38, has been the head professional at the Kamloops Tennis Association since May 3. He took over from George Lea, who had been head pro the 10 previous years.

Hubbard came to Kamloops from New Zealand, where he and two other people ran the New Zealand Tennis Academy. The academy featured 220 children, all looking to fine-tune their games.

Before New Zealand, Hubbard, who has Tennis Canada's Head Coach 2 certification, worked in Australia, California and Vancouver.

But he started to miss Canada, so he looked for a job near his hometown of Vancouver. The KTA job came up and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I didn't want to go to Vancouver, but I wanted to come to B.C.," says Hubbard, whose parents live in Kelowna. "That sort of limited my choices, but I wanted to be near my family.

"I like Vancouver, I just don't want to have to deal with the cars, the traffic."

As a junior, Hubbard was twice named B.C.'s most valuable player, but turned to coaching 15 years ago after realizing "I couldn't make it on the tour."

Through his decade and a half of coaching, Hubbard has coached a few top-notch players, including some who have gone on to play professionally. Among them are American Gail Brodsky, Kiwi Jaden Grinter and Rebecca Marino, who is ranked sixth among Canadians and 159th on the WTA.

"It's not a bad resume," Hubbard offers, "but it's not spectacular either."

Hubbard's main goal with the KTA is to increase its junior numbers, and he's already seeing its payoff.

When he started, there were 18 junior-aged players, and now there are 23. He hopes to get the number up to 50.

"We have lots of room to produce good players," Hubbard says.

One of the ways he has started to do this involves a new system of teaching - now there are five tiers for participants between the ages of five and 18.

"We would like to get as many young kids out as possible," Hubbard says. "We have a few good juniors - Ian Brink is one of the top-ranked . . . under-12 players in the province."

Although there's a lot of work involved in achieving his goals, Hubbard is hoping his time in Kamloops will be a chance to settle down after many hectic years.

"I've been busy for a long time, I've never really had a chance to slow down," says Hubbard, who was married last year. "I was always going off to places for events, and just didn't want to do that anymore.

"I am enjoying (Kamloops) so far."

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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