Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Good tennis a Schore thing at Bullis

At age 63, longtime coach has still got game

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When Jack Schore’s tennis students describe their coach, they say that the man does not mess around when it comes to the game he loves.

Over the course of his career, Schore established a tennis training center at the Bullis School in Potomac, as well as a scholarship program for at-risk youth. He’s coached professional players who earned their way to the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And this past school year, he led the Bullis boys’ tennis team to a ranking of third in the country.

But even at 63, Shore isn’t ready to consider retirement; he thinks his coaching will only get better from here.

‘‘I like how most times there’s seriousness around him so you know he’s here to work. He’s not messing around. He’s here to improve your game,” said student Paul Park, 15. ‘‘Everything here is worth it.”

Schore, a resident of Washington, D.C., arrived at Bullis in 1981 after being asked to coach boys’ tennis. Shortly after that, he established the training center on the grounds of Bullis.

‘‘He’s had a significant impact, and over that long career there have been a lot of significant players here. We have the best tennis team in the area” said Bullis Head of School Tom Farquhar. ‘‘The most important thing, and it isn’t visible in the win⁄loss record, is the character and personality and the academic strength of these kids.”

Schore’s training center caters not only to Bullis students but also to 350 youngsters and 150 adults from around the region each week.

He’s worked with more than 60,000 families in the past 26 years.

Growing up in New York City, it never occurred to Schore that he would one day have his own tennis center. Or that he would rack up all of the other accolades that he has, such as being named to the Mid-Atlantic Hall of Fame in 2000 or as the Washington Post’s coach of the year in 2007.

Basketball was the game of choice for the New York City children when he was young. He didn’t discover tennis until he attended a summer camp in his early teens.

After high school he went to Illinois Wesleyan University and never planned on picking up the game again, until fate stepped in.

His dorm was located next to a tennis court. One day when he was walking past it, the school’s star tennis player asked Schore to join him.

Afterwards, the player encouraged Schore to join the team.

‘‘Strangely enough, I think that triggered my career,” Schore said. ‘‘What would have happened? I wouldn’t have joined the team; I wouldn’t have pursued tennis. Strange how the world works.”

While playing on the tennis team after transferring to George Washington University, Schore began coaching to earn extra money. He soon realized that he had a gift.

‘‘I think I have an ability to see within the player’s personality what’s the most important thing to work on,” Schore said. ‘‘I also try to instill how to behave and what the right things to do are. ... I try to instill some values they can live by.”

‘‘He encourages us,” said student Daniel Gray, 14. ‘‘He’s not a coach that says you’re doing this wrong. He talks more about the positive and tells you what you need to change.”

Among those who have perhaps benefited the most from Schore’s work are students involved with the Urban Leadership Development Group.

ULDG was established by Schore and late tennis-great Arthur Ashe as a way to help inner-city children further their educations and tennis skills through scholarships to attend Bullis.

‘‘It gave me a way out. Just coming to a totally different environment stimulated me academically, as well as athletically. It also opened my mind up,” said Damiisa Robinson, the recipient of the first ULDG scholarship. ‘‘He related a lot of the situations on the court to life; one thing he stressed with me was education, education.”

Schore sees his career only getting better in the coming years.

‘‘I’ve always felt lucky; I’ve always felt fortunate,” he said. ‘‘And I’ve always felt I better know what I’m doing, and I better keep learning.”