ENCINITAS — Teaching tennis comes naturally to Brad Humphreys, who began passing on his knowledge at the age of 15, when he took a summer job with a recreation department in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Later, after earning his master’s degree in education from Idaho University, he relocated in 1970 to Encinitas, where he became a tennis instructor for the San Dieguito Tennis Club. He’s coached multiple generations of players at the club’s courts.
“Teaching tennis to me has been rewarding on a lot of levels,” said Humphreys, who recently announced he’ll be retiring soon. “I enjoyed developing friendships with players and watching them improve over the years.”
For his dedication, he’ll be awarded with a lifetime achievement award March 2 from the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association), San Diego chapter.
Some instructors coach only pros or youth players, but Humphreys has taught all ages and ability levels during his career. With such a wide range, he developed a knack for tailoring lessons to different kinds of people.
“In the beginning, I was teaching everyone the same way,” Humphreys said. “It didn’t take long for me to realize not everyone plays the same. There’s a lot of different styles in tennis. One of the tricks is finding what works best for each person.”
Aggressive baseliner, counterpuncher, serve-and-volleyer — there are plenty of tennis styles. And Humphreys said it’s key to find which style fits a player. Also very important: teaching players mental toughness.
It’s a topic Humphreys is especially interested in, noting he made a habit of attending tennis conferences to gather perspective from fellow coaches on how to best foster a rock-solid mindset.
“You have a lot of ups and downs in tennis,” Humphreys said. “It’s not just a straight line improvement that you see on a graph — there’s plateaus you have to get past and that’s where mental toughness comes in.”
Pushing beyond the plateaus involves, among other things, playing one point at a time, breathing and developing a steady rhythm with rituals.
“If you watch the pros serve, you notice they do the same thing all the time, like they may get their feet set and then pull their sleeve up and bounce the ball two times,” Humphreys said.
Ultimately, success often goes back to the fundamentals, something Humphreys stresses during lessons.
“If you get that base, you have more potential to build from,” he said. “From there, you can start incorporating strategy into your game.”
“Tennis is easy to understand intellectually, but it’s another thing to understand it mechanically, where your body automatically does what it’s supposed to,” Humphreys added.
To that end, resident Chris Peterson, who has taken many lessons from Humphreys, said his focus on fundamentals served her well over the years.
“I never felt I had to rework my stroke or tennis elbow,” Peterson said.
She also described him as thoughtful, patient and smart.
“He helped me with every aspect of my game,” Peterson said. “And he’s just an incredibly nice guy.”
Humphreys has also enjoyed success as a player, including being named the Idaho state open champion four times, and he was No. 17 in the USPTA singles ranking in 1972. He also competed while attending Idaho State University on a full scholarship.
“Tennis has been so good to me — it’s provided me with an education and livelihood — that I’ve tried to give back to it,” Humphreys said.
He’s served as the past president of the San Diego USPTA, and he participates in Tennis Across America, a program offering free lessons to encourage more to take up the sport.
“I love the game — it’s the least I can do,” Humphreys said.