Interview with Josh Altschuler
December 17, 2013 By Billy Crawford
JOSH CAN BE REACHED AT 203-824-4645
BC. Welcome to New Orleans. What circumstances brought you to our great city?
JA. My lovely wife Tonya was offered an outstanding opportunity as a professor with the Tulane school of Tropical Medicine. Along with our now nine-month old son, Cameron, we jumped at the chance for her to work for such a respected institution.
Q. Where were you born? Schools you have attended?
A. I was born and raised in Woodbridge, Connecticut. It is a small town outside of New Haven, home to Yale University. I attended a tennis powerhouse, Amity High School. Then I went on to Syracuse University.
Q. Are you working with Dr. Max Begue and the New Orleans Youth Tennis Program?
A. Yes, on my third day in New Orleans I went over to City Park. It seemed like a good place to get information. I met Gerald Davis, Sr., who had just finished his lessons, told me about Max’s program. Grassroots tennis programs have always been near and dear to my heart as I had been a site coordinator in New Haven in the late 1990’s. Max was more than interested in my help.
Q. As a teaching professional you have a distinguished list of credentials. Please explain how and where you earned these credentials?
A. The summer before my sophomore year in high school I took a YMCA trip. We backpacked Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong with eight other fifteen year olds and a twenty one year old leader. Needless to say, after that summer of camp was over, I wanted a job. My tennis coach hired me as his assistant. I had such an aptitude for the position that he took me on, not only in summer, but after school hours as well. There were younger kids and high school students that had signed up for our clinics. At first I was required to stay with twelve and under. However, older kids started requesting me. Parents were very unsure but my coaching philosophy convinced them otherwise.
Q. Share with us your 20 plus years’ experience as a Certified Tennis Professional.
A. After high school I went to Syracuse. I taught at a local club but after college I was convinced that I had to get a “real job.” Boy was I wrong. That was 1997 and sports were starting a boom that changed the tennis landscape forever. I left the Northeast for Florida to work for world-renowned coach Rafael Font de Mora, who at the time was Meghann Shaughnessy’s coach. I ran his place in Florida. I soon started running tournaments, including the 2001 Junior Super-nationals in Tampa. We were the first super tiebreak. In February 2002 I moved to Hopman Academy at Saddlebrook resort. I learned more than one can ever imagine. More than anything I learned the value of fast footwork drills while making solid contact with the ball. I eventually took these skills back to Connecticut. I ran my own out door facilities and worked for local indoor clubs where our ladies’ USTA teams flourished.
Q. What tennis centers are you now teaching students?
A. New Orleans Youth tennis at City Park. I’m doing a lot of volunteer work at Atkinson-Stern. I also travel locally.
Q. How old were you when you began playing tennis?
A. I always say four. Truth is, I don’t remember not playing. The backboard was my biggest competition at that age. We had a great wall in the neighborhood.
Q. Who influenced and contributed to your love for tennis at an early age?
A. My dad would take me out at night in our local tennis bubble. I loved that. I also had success in tournaments at a young age.
Q. Name a teaching Pro who influence your teaching of tennis?
A. My first coach was great. He was a British twenty something who became very close to my whole family. He gave me my first job and I still use some of his techniques as he was teaching early forms of what the tennis game has become, whereas most coaches were still teaching what the game looked like pre-1985. He was giving us the tools to play a modern game.
Q. What are some of your interests other than tennis?
A. I love all sports. My dad was a great basketball player so we played a lot. We skied a couple weekends a month in the winters in the mountains of Vermont. I grew up in a town with an outstanding recreation department. Flag football was huge as was little league baseball. As I got older, I loved road trips. Now my interests are being with my wife and son. Since arriving in New Orleans in late August we have probably been to double-digit festivals. Cameron loves people and the outdoors.
Q. What was your first racquet? What racquet do you use now? Strings?
A. My first racquet I remember was the Prince Jr. My favorite was the Prince Spectrum Comp. Now I use the Wilson BLX. My brother is the coach of professional top 50 Bethanie Mattek Sands. When she switched racquets I got first pick of the BLX’s. I have been with that racquet ever since. They are strung with a poly blend. The strings have slits that hold onto the ball. In my opinion strings have changed the game as much as the racquets.
Q. Would you mention a few of the most skilled tennis players you have played against or watched in your career?
A. My brother Adam Altschuler is a once in a million athlete. He and James Blake were the same age and had a rivalry from the 12s and under up through the 18’s. We all played out of a club in Trumbull, CT. Practices were intense. Everybody in the top 100 on both male and female tours are incredibly skilled. It’s tough to win a match these days. If anyone is looking for a fun match to watch check out Fabio Fognini. His strokes are awesome. I have been a regular at the US Open for years and the best matches are on the outside courts. This is where you will usually get Fognini’s matches. I’ve seen some broken racquets and great tennis. Win or lose its always entertaining.
Q. Please share with us a few of the most humorous and or enlightening happenings you have experienced in tennis?
A. My doubles matches with my wife are my favorite times. It doesn’t happen often. Most of the time it’s when we are visiting my in-laws at the New Hampshire lake house. I have gone for balls on her side, realized she was there and literally slid underneath her while she jumps over me. But I had better get there just in case. On another note during that supernational tournament previously mentioned the USTA gave us cards to judge people’s reactions to a 10 point supertiebreaker instead of a third set. Those of us running the tournament loved it but the players obviously were not into something new. They filled out cards saying how much they hated it. But by last couple days the parents were realizing that matches were not running on time. We convinced them to find their kids cards and throw them away and write a card for their kids. Now everyone uses the scoring system.
Q. New Orleans is known world wide for its great places to eat. Do you and your family have any favorites eateries?
A. The grouper with crabmeat at Jacques-Imos was a meal I would recommend to everyone. Dick and Jennys was great and being near Tipitina’s is a huge plus. I love po-boys so I love Parkway. My mother, who is very allergic to all seafood, came to visit. She can’t even have her food cooked on the same grill. Guy’s po-boys was so nice to her and made her a turkey po-boy after cleaning the grill and using separate gloves. I thought that was very kind as it had to have been a pain in the neck.