Ryan Horn Profile
FOR: Marine Drive Magazine (March)
6 Feb 2012
BY: Stephanie Lundberg
Ryan Horn has been a tennis professional for more than 20 years – first as a competitor, and than as an instructor and television commentator.
Originally from South Africa, his family encouraged him to train in the sport early. “[I got started] through my sister’s swim coach, actually. My sister was a phenomenal swimmer and her daughter was a tennis coach. And my Dad did a trade-off: tennis lessons for swim lessons. So I’ve been playing tennis since I was three, three-and-a-half.”
He played professionally for seven years, within South Africa and without, but still took the time to teach the sport as he competed. “When you’re a player, you’re always kind of coaching, even if it’s little ones. You’re always ticking over.”
So when he retired from the professional circuit, he continued in the field. “I was offered a great job in London, working with players,” Horn says. “I’ve coached from 18 months old to 94 years old; my expertise is a wide range. But what I like is performance coaching – people who are trying to get to the collegiate level or trying to get further.”
From there, he has been involved in tennis in many different ways and in many different places. Before he was recruited to coach tennis at Guam’s military bases for the Professional Tennis Registry, he was working in Spain. He’s also worked for the past three years as a tennis commentator for ESPN World Feed, a job that has allowed him to travel while making a coaching base in Guam.
Horn gets particularly animated when talking about his other Guam counterparts. When he can’t coach a player at one of his on or off-base locations, he says there are many talented coaches he can refer those players to. “There are some great coaches off-base as well,” he says, naming coaches like Seth Haynie and Rick Ninete. “Rick Ninete, he won a lifetime achievement award last year here in Guam at the Governor’s, and he’s also a PTR coach. Anybody you speak to in Guam, he has taught them at some point in time. He’s a phenomenal person to know, and good ambassador for tennis worldwide.”
There’s good reason for Horn to be so enthusiastic about Guam’s tennis scene. PTR has eleven certified tennis professionals and instructors for the island listed on its website. In addition, organizations like the Guam National Tennis Federation and the Guam Community Tennis Association keep both youth and adults connected and active through tournaments and family events. A notable example is the 39th Chamorro Tennis Tournament to be held in March and April, which is the longest-running Guam tournament and GNTF’s crown event.
Several of Horn’s players compete in Guam tournaments, and they need a different kind of coaching to prepare for the competitions. “Going into a tournament we change a little bit. Most of my kids play five days a week; they come every day Monday through Friday. And then going into a tournament they play a lot more matches to get them match-ready,” he says.
“Some of them have never competed before, and learning to compete – one of the things [I talk about] when I commentate is the ‘winning wheel’: the earlier you start, and the earlier you have – and a lot parents don’t like to hear this – you have to have the losses, because that gives you another spoke in your winning wheel. How to cope with it, how to deal with it, how to move on, how to regroup. [The kids] have to be out there doing it, there’s no substitute for match play.”
The advice is the same for adults, although it’s not uncommon for Horn to coach people from different backgrounds and with different goals. “I don’t mind if it’s a two-year old or somebody that’s never played before,” he says. “You and your husband say, ‘Ryan, we want to do something together, so let’s come in and play some tennis.’ I don’t mind – if you want to learn I can teach you. It’s that simple.”
Tennis isn’t only for match play; Horn gives fitness sessions called cardio tennis for people who are looking to get fit. “A lot of people use tennis to get into shape. On the mainland, I’m taking reservations for cardio tennis because it’s so busy. Because it’s a good workout, you’re outside in the fresh air. And you’re burning 600 to 1000 calories in an hour.”
Horn says one advantage for new tennis players – whether they’re looking for fitness or competition – is that they don’t have to have a lot of equipment to break into the sport. “There’s always someone who has got tennis rackets. You know, if you’ve got a decent pair of shoes, you can mix and match and find somebody and go play at the beginner level all the way through to an advanced tennis player, which is great. Any age level, any skill level, you can come out and play, enjoy and improve.”
There are some safety and etiquette considerations, he says. “One: you’re playing around moving balls, so you’re always watching your ball, not to step on it. The biggest injury in tennis is rolling ankles. Running shoes don’t give you the correct support, so you need correct tennis shoes.”
As for etiquette, his advice is straightforward. “Just [give] common courtesy. A ‘win at all cost’ attitude – I don’t subscribe to [that]. We’re people, we should be enjoying each other’s company, on the tennis court and off the tennis court.”
Because, Horn says, that’s really what sport is all about. “Tennis has taken me to 34 countries around the world. Tennis a great lifestyle, and I enjoy meeting people – I think that’s the bottom line, it’s people. The avenue that I get to meet them is through tennis, but it is people at the end of the day.”