Woodstock — Andy Porter was barely past the age of a toddler when he knew he had a passion for tennis.
“My parents never played, but I was about 3 years old when they started taking me to local high school matches,” said Porter, a native of Salina, Kan., north of Wichita. “I wasn’t even as tall as the net when I remember watching one player in particular and thinking, ‘I want to be like him.’ ”
Porter, 34, now hopes to help instill similar enthusiasm for the game at the Woodstock Athletic Club, which is owned and operated by Woodstock Inn & Resort. He recently was named the facility’s first director of tennis.
Porter’s duties will range from general maintenance of WAC’s 10 courts — six clay, four composite and two indoor — to working with seventh-year head tennis pro Tom Hopewell to develop and enhance its programs and activities.
Porter eagerly is anticipating those latter duties. A Harvard University graduate, he’d been away from the game for nearly seven years when he reached out to Dartmouth College men’s tennis coach Chris Drake in 2013, hankering to be involved in whatever capacity the Big Green needed.
“I was an investment banking analyst, spending 80-90 hours (per week) behind a desk,” said Porter, who attended high school at an elite Florida tennis academy and played three seasons at NCAA Division III California Lutheran University before transferring to Harvard. “I got to the point where I was asking myself, ‘What is it that makes me who I am?’ and I realized that tennis was still a huge part of it.”
With a talented coaching staff already in place at Dartmouth, Porter has focused on counseling Big Green players, finding many to be in pursuit of financial careers similar to his own.
“A lot of them are better players than I am, and they all know how to volley, serve and hit groundstrokes,” said Porter, who will remain involved with the team. “Tennis is 90 percent mental, so I do whatever I can to help them get to a good place in that regard. I’d help them find corporate internships or talk to them about the pros and cons of investment banking, just try to make their lives easier in any way I can because I know when that stuff is taken care of, you become a better player.”
With the Big Green, Porter has focused on what he calls “building the program,” utilizing his business acumen to construct promotional relationships aimed at making Dartmouth tennis generally more visible. It has worked, according to Drake.
“He’s come up with different activities and gives out prizes or T-shirts in between singles and doubles matches,” Drake said in a phone interview. “He linked up with Lou’s (restaurant and bakery) and had coffee and doughnuts delivered for morning matches. He’s handled all of the announcements for us.”
Dartmouth’s teams have enjoyed success since Porter arrived. The men beat Harvard in 2015 and 2016 for its first victories over the Crimson in more than 20 years, according to Drake, and reached the NCAA tournament in 2016 to break an equally lengthy drought.
“Those matches against Harvard had some of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at home matches,” Drake said.
At Woodstock, Porter plans to again focus on outreach to help make playing tennis at WAC more accessible. He feels the facility’s rates are reasonable — for example, nonmembers pay $20 for a 60-minute clinic lesson and $20 to $32 for 90-minute use of the courts — but he’d like to see more players using them.
“Right now we have 150 tennis members, but it’s very seasonal,” Porter said. “We have to do more to be more appealing and accessible to the broader Woodstock community on a year-round basis.
“I’d like to bring in more guest instructors and professionals and spread the word, so that the overall energy of the place goes up. I want people to think of tennis when they think of Woodstock.”
Porter has been seeking the advice of Quechee Club tennis pro Chuck Kinyon, a former Dartmouth men’s squash and men’s tennis coach. The pair is collaborating for weekly Kids Day Fridays, leading about 40 children ages 7-16 during a two-hour session this week at the Quechee Club.
“I don’t consider us to be in competition because we have different membership bases, and it’s really about growing the tennis community as a whole,” Porter said.
“I want the game to be less exclusive and more inclusive, because it’s a great game that can be a lifetime sport. I think it should be available to everybody.”
Porter’s enthusiasm has been contagious to Hopewell, who’s worked at the facility for 20 years and has been head tennis pro since 2011. Porter and Hopewell first met during an indoor clinic last winter in which Porter was a participant.
“He came to play with a couple of his buddies, and of course I noticed the (Dartmouth logo) on his shirt,” Hopewell said. “After he told me he coached there, I ended up asking if he could lead one of the groups and right away he was like, ‘Yeah! Great!’ Right there I could tell that he really cares about the game.”
Porter, whose wife, Jacquelyn, is expecting their first child shortly, called his new post a dream job.
“This is exactly what I envisioned doing,” he said. “I want my (son or daughter) to see the players here and say, ‘I want to do that,’ just like I did when I was young.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3225.
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