Smith Stearns Tennis Academy

Story by Barry Kaufman | Photos by Rittherbeck Photography

B.J. STEARNS: GUIDING YOUNG ATHLETES TO GREATNESS

Over the past 20 years, Smith Stearns Tennis Academy has been helping shape the next generation of the sport. 

The two gentlemen whose name can be found on the sign need no introduction, of course. The first is Stan Smith, perhaps equally famous for his legendary tennis career as he is for the iconic shoe that bears his name. Joining him is B.J. Stearns, well known as a premiere juniors coach with dozens of junior national champions under his training, who has grown along with the academy.

According to Stearns, the last few years have seen explosive growth at the academy, with this shift in thinking producing some of the court’s brightest stars. 

“Particularly in the last 5-7 years we’ve had students doing really well on the collegiate circuit,” said Stearns. “Right now, we have two of the top 15 men’s players in college and former student Jessie Pegula reached a career high ranking of No. 18 on the Women’s Tennis Association tour. That’s been fun to watch.”

But just as the game of tennis has evolved over the past 20 years, so too have the methods by which they are taught. 

“We’ve come to realize that teaching students the game and guiding them to greatness is just part of what we can do for these young people,” said B.J. “What we want to do is look at how we can improve the whole athlete.”

That has meant augmenting the academy’s renowned tennis instruction with teachers that focus on all aspects of the game, on and off the court. The professionals you see here represent the vanguard of this new way of teaching. 

Students at Smith Stearns will still receive a world-class education of the game’s fundamentals and techniques courtesy of director of instruction Eric Turner, director of high performance Derek Porter and coaches Julian Sullivan, Nicolas Guillon, Diogo Lamy and Alfredo Soliz (not pictured). 

But what sets Smith Stearns apart is the “whole athlete” approach they’ve taken to guiding students. Head athletic trainer Besmir Muskaj and director of sports performance Alice Batson oversee a team that breaks down every aspect of a student’s performance and conditioning. 

Beyond improving their game, the efforts of sports performance trainers Marwin Kline and Mike Treschitta (not pictured) along with mental conditioning coach Matt Cuccaro give students the tools they need to enjoy the game safely and with a strong focus on personal development. 

“Tennis is a completely different game than it was in 2002, and keeping up with the competition means having the will to look at every aspect of the way we teach,” said B.J. “I’m proud of the coaches and professionals we’ve added, and the results speak for themselves in the way our students have responded and improved their game.”

And ultimately, the students are what it’s all about. 

“At the end of the day, tennis isn’t just about hitting balls. There’s far more to it on the mental and physical sides of things,” said Stearns. “I think it just makes them a more well-rounded player and gets them ready for the next level of competition.”

1 Lighthouse Ln, Hilton Head Island | 843-363-4789 | smithstearns.com