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Wayne St. Peter, head of Pickleball Maine at Foreside Fitness and Tennis in Falmouth, started teaching tennis when he was a junior in high school. The 67-year-old Portland native, who is also certified in pickleball, started Pickleball Maine two years ago and gives lessons in both sports.
Mainebiz: How did you get into sports and tennis in particular?
Wayne St. Peter: I’ve been teaching tennis since I was a junior in high school. I grew up on Munjoy Hill [in Portland] learning to play tennis on those courts, in the Parks & Recreation program, and was very fortunate that a bunch of adults let me join them.
MB: What attracted you to tennis?
WSP: There was a gentleman, his name was Don Atkinson and he was a junior high school teacher at Jack Junior High School, what now is Jack Elementary on Munjoy Hill. And he said, ‘Kid, you want to play some tennis?’ He started what is now the Maine Tennis Association and was recruiting people to come and play in his local tournament no matter what level they were, and that got me hooked. Today, I serve on the board of the Maine Tennis Hall of Fame with Don.
MB: Who were your sports heroes growing up?
WSP: When I was young, I used to go to North Conway, N.H., and watch Jimmy Connors and Ken Rosewall play during my years in high school. Rosewall was at the end of his career, and Connors was at the beginning of his career. It was called the Volvo Tournament, in North Conway. I would also go to the Portland Expo and watch some of the world’s best tennis players in the Downeast Tennis Classic — Ilie Nastase, Harold Solomon, Eddie Dibbs.
MB: Did you ever think of going pro?
WSP: No. I always enjoyed teaching, and I’m not good enough to be a pro.
MB: What do you like about teaching?
WSP: I like teaching all different levels. It’s fun to teach an advanced player and coach them. Sometimes, you get a lot of enjoyment out of watching somebody come onto the tennis court who’s never picked up a racket, and 15 years later, you watch that it’s such a big part of their life. That gives you a lot of self-satisfaction.
MB: Who are your pickleball clients?
WSP: My clients are 100% adults — individuals and, from time to time, also families. Corporate wellness events are also a big thing for us, where we take people that have played and people that haven’t played and get them all playing together.
MB: What’s the key to being a good pickleball player?
WSP: Have fun and enjoy it.
MB: How much do lessons cost?
WSP: It’s a wide range — anywhere from $95 an hour to $25 an hour. It depends on the size of the groups. The $95 is a private lesson. Exactly the same rates as tennis.
MB: How much longer are you going to keep teaching?
WSP: I’m 67, and I’m a liver transplant patient from a rare blood disorder. In about 2017, I had my liver and kidney go down and actually had a liver transplant at Mass General. And I spent time rehabbing a couple of months over at Spaulding [Hospital for Continuing Medical Care in Cambridge, Mass.] — learned how to walk and everything else all over again. I was pretty much in a coma for almost a month and was close to pulling the plug. And I’m very fortunate, unfortunate for somebody else but fortunate for me, and I’m here today.
MB: No plans to retire?
WSP: The way I look at it is, people retire so they can go play tennis, pickleball and golf, and I’m doing it, I’m living it.
MB: Of all the plaques on the wall behind you, what’s the most special?
WSP: I’ve gotten a lot of them over the years, but probably the one that means the most is the Lifetime Service Award from the Maine Tennis Association because it’s local, so I’m being recognized by my peers for what I’ve done throughout my life.
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