A chorus of giggling five- to seven year-olds provided background sound for tennis teaching pro Randy Hancock's "3-2-1" count in to the swing, as he tossed a ball over a scaled-down net to a first time student.
The giggling was a result of getting the children to relax during their first session on a mini-court at the Harrison Tennis Center on Shallowford Road last Monday. There are no lessons scheduled for today, due to Labor Day holiday.
The day off is not to say that teaching tennis is a labor for Hancock who admits that the game is a passion of his that has opened another door for fun work,
Outdoor Experiences is an endeavor of Hancock's that has grown out of vacation time. He brings small groups of people fishing and other outdoor activities.
The next trip is scheduled for late September. The adventure will take place on an 80 foot river boat in Brazil, according to Hancock. Other trips have been to places off the map in Central and South America and places close, like the Ocoee River.
Hancock shared that sponsorships may make the next fishing trip profitable. Brands, Mojo Sportswear, Shimano America rod and reels and Oakley Eyewear have made promotional agreements with Hancock. Part of his sell is that he lived outside the U.S. until the age of 18 and knows exotic places and how to get around in remote locations.
Hancock's parents, Pat and Earl Hancock, help coordinate the trips and their retired schedules allow them to travel with Randy.
"My dad is career military and always had the opinion that you either work or play, and I always wanted to play and work," Hancock shared, "My mother has even been on four of the fishing trips."
Tennis is the game that provides a foundation for Hancock. He taught himself how to play at the age of eight when living on a military base in Central America. While still eight, he persuaded the base men's' singles champ to hit with him and tells the story of the beginning of a life time relationship with the game.
He played tennis in college and played the pro tour for a couple of years after graduating with a degree in computer science and accounting.
Hancock shared that his career has had its ups and downs and that he was raised with the expectation that you must work for what you get. Hancock credits having several teaching professionals help him develop his teaching style.
Hancock's duties at Harrison Tennis Center involve working with an average of 140 clients every week, the bulk are children students.
"The high school varsity tennis teams in a 4 mile radius of Harrison are very competitive." Hancock said, "This tennis center is considered a grass roots facility for beginners through advanced beginners. Players grow to the next level and move to a more competitive environment."
"I'm not going to get rich doing what I do but I'm rewarded by the people I teach. Tennis is a time out from the rat race."
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. The people. I enjoy people as much as I enjoy teaching tennis. The longer a person plays, the more they learn about themselves, what their limits are.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. Our conveniences. Of all the places that I've lived around the United States and the world, East Cobb has whatever you want, in some shape or form, close by.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. Tennis is so prolific in this part of the state. Atlanta area has many tennis courts and tennis instructors. If a person wants to make a living teaching tennis and can't make it here, they're not trying.
I've lived in Cobb for over 20 years.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I like having fun. I'm kind of a big kid and I'm enjoying myself on the tennis courts. If I can pass along my enjoyment to the people I'm teaching and the parents watching, then I'm doing my job.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. I've been teaching 30 years.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. I played an ALTA tournament here in the early 80's. I only spent three days here and I was amazed at how many good tennis players live here.
I've been a contractor with Cobb County at Harrison for about 17 years. Each year I sit down with the center site manager, Steve Lottinger, and he reviews my work. I've known Steve for twenty years, he tells a story about us playing tennis against each other as how we met and became friends.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Do your research. Know your demographics. Know who you want to target your business to. I've learned that customer service is important. If you don't satisfy and communicate well with your clientele, you're not going to last.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Have a positive mental attitude. Have a goal and know where you want to be. And, work to get there. Life, and tennis, is like a roller coaster, the negative is temporary, ride it out.
Randy Hancock, USPTA teaching pro
Harrison Tennis Center
2653 Shallowford Road NE
Marietta, GA 30066