By Karen Billing
Local resident Adrian Waisfeld has taken a big swing at developing the sport of tennis on the San Diego Jewish Academy campus. In addition to serving as the school’s tennis coach, he also runs his AW Tennis Academy on the campus courts.
Waisfeld has a “PTR Master of Tennis-Performance” qualification, a new program that matches the highest level of the “National Standards for Sports Coaches.” Only five people in the country have completed the master of tennis, including Waisfeld. He prides himself on constantly educating himself on the best practices for progressing young players with potential.
“My dream is to take one of my players to play professionally,” Waisfeld said.
While he would love to have a player become one of the country’s best, he also gets a lot of joy from helping kids learn the game.
“Every kid can play tennis,” Waisfeld said. “It’s amazing when they start to notice they can do it. I like to see their faces so proud when they hit a shot. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. I have the best job, the kids are awesome.”
Waisfeld started playing tennis “late,” as an 11-year-old in his native Argentina. A sports enthusiast, he had played soccer, basketball and swam but decided to pick up tennis.
“I was jealous because my dad played with my older brother,” admitted Waisfeld with a smile.
Almost immediately, the beginner was beating kids who had started playing five years before him.
“It was natural for me, it was easy,” Waisfeld said.
In 1983, his family attended the Davis Cup in their country, watching Argentinians Guillermo Vilas and Jose-Luis Clerc beat Americans John McEnroe and Gene Mayer.
“After that I told my dad I wanted to be a tennis professional,” Waisfeld said.
He started competing at the junior level and quickly rose up the ranks, reaching the top 10 nationally when he was 18. Waisfeld played all over Europe, mainly in France and Spain, in the “minor leagues” of the ATP World Tour. Although he had beaten ATP players, he couldn’t afford the high cost of competing at that level.
Waisfeld married his childhood sweetheart and decided to focus instead on teaching the game he loved. In Argentina, he taught every level of tennis player and ran his own tennis academy.
His favorite teaching success story is that of a 79-year-old man who had been diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live. The 79-year-old told Waisfeld he had never hit a backhand with top spin and it was something he wanted to do before he died.
“I worked with him and we did it,” Waisfeld said.
When he moved to San Diego eight years ago for his wife’s new position at UCSD, he aimed to establish his tennis instruction career here. He taught private lessons at the Surf and Turf Tennis Club in Del Mar before landing the job as the tennis coach at SDJA.
“I love it because of coaching the teams and also because they gave me space to create my own academy,” Waisfeld said.
The academy started off small and has grown every year, offering instruction to children and adult players.
Waisfeld said his background makes him a very unique kind of instructor as in Argentina they have a different approach in “creating” an athlete.
“We do a lot of games, we play soccer, football, ultimate Frisbee because you’re learning catching, hand-eye-coordination, running, movements…tennis is not running in a straight line,” Waisfeld said. “I put a lot of focus in physical fitness, it’s important.”
Waisfeld’s playing days are mostly behind him — in 2006 he cracked the top seven in Southern California and was number one in San Diego in the 35-year-old division but he has turned his focus to his students, especially his two children, ages 10 and 13.
“Right now my two kids are playing and I’d rather put my time in them, they have more of a future in tennis than I do,” Waisfeld said.
Through August AW Tennis Academy is offering tennis summer camps for players 6-18.
Sessions remain open throughout July and through the week of Aug. 8. To register, contact Adrian Waisfeld at (858) 692-4242 or email email@example.com.