Anna and Scott have both moved on from successful careers in tennis – yet their transitions were vastly different. Anna had a fulfilling career at the University of Portland as a student-athlete, knew she would be moving on from the sport after graduation, and had a support system that always emphasized balance. Scott grew up in a household with two tennis pros, was fully immersed in the sport from a young age, and always knew he would go professional as well. However, he had to make a transition earlier than expected after a career-ending injury.
Where are you from, and how did you get into tennis?
Anna: I was born in Kennewick, Washington, raised in Yakima, spent a short time in Denver and then lived in Spokane, Washington for high school. I grew up playing tennis in Yakima. My mom was a player at the University of Portland, which is eventually where I attended. She loved tennis so much she wanted to continue with us kids. I have three younger brothers, and her goal was to have her own doubles team. Tennis has been a great way of meeting new people. We moved a lot growing up, but tennis always helped introduce us to the community. I dabbled in soccer and basketball, but I was never going to be talented at those. I’m six-feet tall and people are always surprised when they ask if I played basketball or volleyball and instead I tell them I play tennis. Despite my height, I’m not aggressive, so tennis was a natural sport for me. One thing my folks did was promote balance. We lived in a large and busy household, and our folks didn’t want us to be burned out, so we were involved in a variety of activities and music. I played piano and violin through high school, but in high school tennis became my focus.
Scott: My story was a little different. My parents were from the “Golden Era” of tennis in Australia. I was born in Fresno with my brother, and then when I was five we moved to Melvin. At the time my mom was 15th in the world and was playing in the Grand Slam events. My mother was one of the original pioneers in tennis alongside Billie Jean King. So our house was completely focused on tennis from the start.
Can you summarize your careers?
Anna: In high school I played a lot of junior tournaments, and my brother and I would compete and practice with each other. We had the whole sibling rivalry going, but in a good way. I got a scholarship for the University of Portland with Coach Susie Campbell. I was looking at Division III schools in L.A., like Santa Cruz, Pomona, and Loyola Marymount; but after meeting Susie and getting to know the community, UP was for me. The best I got was number two my junior year. There were a couple matches I clinched during my career, but what was so great about the program was that Susie also emphasized balance. You were still a student athlete and a well-rounded person on her team. The West Coast Conference was pretty tough at the time, but we were taught to work your butt off, compete, support your teammates and represent the program. When you are out in the community, you are representing the school. She made sure that was a valuable element in our college career.
Scott: All I wanted to do was go to an American college, because when you were good enough that’s where you went. My parents knew the system and how tough it is to make it in the pro tour, and college is a great avenue to that. I played all sports in high school. I loved golf, cricket, you name it. But tennis was something I had good results in when I played tournaments, and ultimately the ability to get a scholarship. I was the top junior in the country at 16. So, when I was 17 I got on a plane and flew over to visit Stanford, UCLA, Fresno State where my mom coached in the late 80s, and Pepperdine. I had attention because my parents had talent. When I visited Pepperdine in Malibu, it was heaven on earth. The tennis team was incredible. Coach Peter Smith gave me a scholarship, which is amazing because it is so expensive. However, he called me as I was an incoming freshman and said he got the job at USC. But I was committed to Pepperdine. Our team was decimated when he left. Then Adam Steinberg comes in, a rambunctious Jewish guy from New York, and worked his butt off recruiting. We had a hodge-podge of people, some American some foreign. It was a great experience, I loved it. We beat Georgia, who were undefeated at the time, for the National Championship my senior year in 2006. I played against John Isner, the six-foot-ten-inch American player who is known for the longest match in history in Wimbledon and is ranked in the top 15 right now. I played a year or two professionally, and throughout had three elbow surgeries. I got to a point I couldn’t support myself any more, and was in so much pain that it wasn’t fun.
It sounds like your transitions out of tennis were quite different, especially since Anna wasn’t planning on going professional, and Scott knew he was going professional after college. Can you describe that?
Anna: I was an accounting major and went right into that world after. It’s a very intense field and a very rigorous profession, especially when you first start, so it didn’t leave room for me to think about too much else. However, I really missed the team camaraderie and competition. Around spring time audits were taking place, which is tennis season, and I really longed for it. The hardest part about the transition for me was the physical difference where you are sitting for multiple hours per day at a computer rather than on the court or at the gym. That was the most difficult, to get your body used to not moving as much, changing your eating habits, getting used to a work schedule, and only being able to exercise an hour a day rather than a few hours. I still love tennis, which my upbringing allowed. Many of my peers just quit because they were forced to do it all the time. I still loved it and missed it a lot. There is nothing like college competition. I tell people to enjoy it while you can. It’s different even at the professional level because you compete for yourself and not a team. You can compete in business, but having an outlet is a challenge. But I think my transition directly to a job was helpful.
Scott: Yes, I majored in sport, haha. Just kidding, I studied International Management and Business. Basically how I chose it was because it didn’t involve math, which seemed like the stupidest subject ever at the time, but of course I use it a lot now. I actually graduated Cum Laude. I really liked school and learning. I went to every class I could. So many athletes would skip class, which I never understood because you’re getting paid to go to school. I took advantage of the small class sizes and flexibility. That’s why I chose Pepperdine.
I actually took off my senior year fall semester to play tournaments, and in doing so it allowed the team to get another player to help build the roster. During that time I had gotten to 600 in the world quickly. I had gotten offers to play in the Australian Open, had acquired sponsorship and momentum, as well as confidence. It was a thought that I could pull the plug on school and I would be off to the races. But I was committed to the school and wanted to get my degree so I went back and finished. To leave those ranking points was tough because I played for three to four months and did well, and you never know if an injury is around the corner. I got the degree knowing I wanted to go play, and I don’t regret that decision. I was talking to my mum about that a few years ago. She asked if I regret not going pro earlier. I possibly gave up a shot to play in the Australian Open because a few years later I had multiple elbow surgeries and lost that chance. But we won the national championship at Pepperdine and you can’t take that away.
How did knowing you would go professional ultimately change your transition out of tennis compared to Anna, who knew she would be done after college?
I think my transition has had more moving parts. Anna was more well-rounded since she had time in the summers to do internships and immerse herself in that, while I was full on in tennis all the time, looking after my body and playing tournaments. I was pretty much eating sleeping, and breathing tennis. So when the surgeon said my elbow was shot and he doesn’t see me playing, it was like, holy shit my dreams are over. Because I was so focused and playing since I was three years old, I didn’t know where to go because it’s all I knew. Coaching was natural for me as it was with my parents, so that’s what I poured myself into since that’s what I knew. Only now at 35 am I really opening up my connections in not just tennis but other ways, and building a story of who I am and what my skills are. It’s been an evolution for me. I’m known as the tennis and paddle player, but I have a lot more skills than that.
Why did you need the surgeries?
I had Tommy John surgery on elbow three times because of bone spurs on the back of my elbow. When I would throw a ball and extend up and out like with a serve, the bone spurs would push out. I couldn’t feed myself since I’m right handed, and turning a doorknob was terrible. The recovery was a month or two, and then I could hit a few balls but it would grow right back. I was happy to be finished because I didn’t want to be in pain anymore. But I don’t think I was ever able to reach my potential in the sport, which sucks. I was happy to rest my body and to be teaching in my environment — and I was good at it. I had a comfortable place to land, but my transition was pretty typical in high-level sports. You go back to coaching because you have a name, when in reality I was also trying to build other businesses and stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to shake that athlete tag. It is positive, but I also am good at other things and competitive in other ways. Even starting in real estate there were other athletes, like a quarterback from UCLA. I don’t care about titles or what people do — just if they are good at something. I never cared about the status. You always have to try to reinvent yourself and improve at things.
What led you back to Pepperdine?
I was dating an athlete at Pepperdine so just went back there, and all the sudden I was at the courts, hitting and helping the team. Then some people in Malibu heard I was back and asked if I would teach lessons. It was just a natural thing to do. Then I got the assistant coaching job for women. I didn’t plan on it, but I fell into it comfortably. As most people know, in tennis you make good money in lessons, and I built up a good business straight away. When you are making that cash you can spend more time with friends and family and enjoy life. But what happened was I stayed in that role for six years, when I probably should have stayed for two. But it was easy and I was good at it and making good money. It’s a bit of a trap. I ended up leaving because I wasn’t stimulated intellectually and needed a new arena. It excites me now thinking about where I’m going to be in the next five years. I want to learn and grow in different business opportunities.
What drew you to real estate?
I enjoyed driving up and down streets looking at homes on the residential side. I sat down with a mentor of mine and told him I needed to get out of tennis, and they said if I want to make money and get into an active role to look into sales and marketing. I made a list of areas and obviously real estate, insurance, and finance were on there. He asked if I heard of a fellow athlete/mentee Mike James, and I happened to still have his number from when I was 20. He was doing well in commercial real estate at Marcus and Millichap. I had no clue what that was, but called him up, went in and visited, and started the next month. That’s when I quit the tennis business, got married, and went for it. That’s what I’ve done the last five years. Four months ago I left them. It was great there, but there are other ways I would like to do business that didn’t necessarily align with their strategies.
What’s your next move now that you are on your own?
I’m really opening up my network and feel like I know what I’m good at and what I don’t want to do. Now I’m connecting with other people with a similar vision to partner with and see where that is taking me. It’s a crazy world right now, and I just feel like with the cost of everything people are bouncing around jobs. You have to change and adapt quickly or you become obsolete. I joke that I’m unemployed, but people say that it’s great and tell me they are scared to leave their job because how tight the market is. They don’t like their job, are working late, have no life, are spending time in traffic – it’s a rat race and things are a grind. There are friends of ours who are doctors and pediatricians and they pay $3,000 per month in student debt. They’ve pigeonholed themselves and have locked into that career path. It’s been an interesting reflecting moment for me. I’m lucky Anna is so steady and it’s afforded me time to take a step back, find out what’s next, and pursue that. I feel like now as a more mature person I can sit back and know myself and what I’m good at and focus on what I like doing.
Do you think it took longer for you to figure out your next step, having been a professional athlete forced to retire earlier than you would like?
It’s a tough transition. Everyone loves to hire athletes because of their discipline and hard work. But you don’t always give yourself a chance to get out and learn something new since being in your sport is so time consuming. I’ve seen many fall into a job because they have someone who takes them under their wing, or bounce around a lot trying to find themselves. I feel like I did something really well for a short period of time, but I realized other peoples’ visions weren’t for me, and life is too short for that.
Anna, are you able to keep balance in your new career?
I don’t play tennis as much as I would like. I was involved more early stages after college, but in L.A. life and work has gotten in the way. I moved from accounting to insurance when I moved here in 2011, and there is a lot of travel involved. If I can play tennis every week or every other week, that is satisfactory to me. Tennis will always be a part of my life, especially as it was a tradition with my mom before she passed. I have other interests, like reading, cooking, and tons of different forms of exercise. I’m a little obsessed with all the different workout classes. It helps me stay fit, interested and competitive.
How did you and Scott meet?
I had moved to L.A. and was playing in a women’s USTA league, and I asked one of the captains if she knew any cute guys. She said she was taking lessons with Scott. We exchanged numbers and he called me. He was convinced I would just fall in love with him right away because of his accent. He was living in suburbs of L.A., and thought I lived somewhere cool like Santa Monica. When he told me he lived way out in Oak Park, I asked if he was on Kanan road. He asked how I know where that is, and I told him that I actually live down the street from him. I had just moved in with my parents, as my mom was ill with breast cancer at the time. So we ended up living less than a mile apart from each other. We met at a local bar, went dancing, and have been together ever since. Our connections were made through tennis, but of course it’s deeper than that. He’s been such a stable part of our family ever since.
Would either of you have done anything differently?
Anna: I would have tried to enjoy the moment a bit more. It’s hard when you are in an 18 to 22-year-old mind frame. It isn’t the same in your early 30s. You are wiser when you get older and appreciate things a bit more. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. I feel like I’m a much more consistent player mentally now. A lot of the little things don’t get to me like they used to. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else – my experience was awesome looking back on it. It was an awesome collegiate experience for me.
Scott: I wish we had access to more resources like massage and sports therapy. We beat our bodies up. Everyone now is foam rolling and stretching, while back then we were pounding on the courts day in and day out, plus conditioning, and we were left to do it on our own. I used to go home and drink a Dr. Pepper because I was thirsty and needed sugar. I would be so hungry and would get a Frappuccino and a muffin. Now programs do much better with diet plans. I’m definitely noticing if I had taken care of my body and had access to more, things could have been different. It was nuts. We only had six top players. If we had one injury we would have dropped to 50th in the country. We didn’t have the depth. That takes its toll. Plus in 2002 to 2006 the technology with the strings in the rackets were terrible for our arms and shoulders. We were also doing our own weight training and core work. We just didn’t have the resources for someone to come in and tell us when to push and pull back. We were just pushing all the time. They just ripped us around the track until we ended up breaking, and we couldn’t go any more. We didn’t even have a trainer at our practices. I’m not saying it’s the most dynamic sport. There isn’t the physical contact, but people are going down with knee and ankle injuries. They didn’t even provide us with water or ice or anything. In hindsight that’s something we should have looked at, but coming from Australia you don’t know and you are googly-eyed over everything else that the experience has to offer.
Anna: One thing I wish I would have known about was barre class. My back was very weak. In a college photo of me that’s up in the athletic department, I’m wearing safety glasses, a knee strap, shin splints, and tape on my shoulder. I was a hot mess. But thankfully I got into yoga toward end of college and after. I do online barre once a week. Especially for someone as tall as me, more core work means better posture and balance. As for diet, we would always have meals as a team to control eating. The strength and conditioning coach we was also aware of injury prevention, especially opening the hips and foam rolling, so I was lucky in that regard. It all depends on what your program has to offer. Scott graduated 13 years ago, me 10. A lot has changed since then. There is much more awareness of the body balance, and injury prevention.
What have you learned from your athletic career that helps you today?
Anna: It’s all about the ability to organize your day and time management. As a student athlete you have to balance classes, plan ahead for when you’re gone, make up your homework, and make sure you meet deadlines. When I went into the accounting profession, I was ready to go. Preparation and accountability is huge. Being part of a team is huge, every match and practice counts. That carries over to business and projects and proposals. As a part of a team you hold yourself accountable rather than blame others. I think the work ethic helps also. You know what it takes to win, but you also know what it feels like to lose. To be able to improve upon a loss to make sure you come out a winner in the next go round is extremely valuable.
Scott: A lot of what Anna talked about. Coming from an individual sport, you learn how to share a lot more on a team. If you win but your team loses, it’s still a loss. There’s a bit of perspective there. The team I was on was especially unique. We were very in tune with how everybody was on the team. If there was a kink, we had to be together as one. I think grit and determination, and probably patience. Something I’ve had to work on is to understand that when I pick up something else, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be immediately good at it – and I’m pissed when I’m not. I expect things to happen quicker than it does. For example, someone who has been in their real estate career for 30 years has things go their way more, as I do on the court. I am learning now that anything you do is a process. When you are little and playing sport, you don’t know how to do it but you just do it and practice over and over again. Now, I expect to be good straight away, so I’m trying to work on that.
Follow Scott on LinkedIn.