Tennis Academy Director Will Campbell named PTR Member of the Year

By Jalynn McColey
Photos by Dustin Nevill

It is with great pride that we announce our very own Will Campbell has been named Arkansas’ PTR Member of the Year by the Professional Tennis Registry. This is a highly coveted award presented to a PTR member who has shown dedication and diligence in promoting and supporting tennis and PTR.

Based on his skill on the court and passion for beginner tennis, one might think Will started playing tennis before he could walk. However, it wasn’t until he was 11 years old, after playing numerous other sports, that his curiosity drove him to pick up a racquet. Within one week of playing, this future tennis professional had signed up for his first tournament, officially hooked on the sport. The more he played, the more his skill level began to elevate, as he won multiple junior tournaments while traveling across the state. In his sophomore year of high school he won the state championship playing singles. Will earned a full tennis scholarship to Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi.  His team was ranked number 3 nationally in NAIA. Will played college tennis for three years before graduating with a history degree and moving to Florida. Here he taught tennis at South Seas Plantation on Captiva Island for about a year, then pursued a law degree at Vanderbilt University. Over the next 17 years, Will’s career took first place as he worked for the Arkansas Supreme Court, Federal District Court, and in private practice. Yet he still found the time to play for fun and to teach local children how to play. He also worked with his own children – son, William, and daughter, Elizabeth. Coaching his children was challenging at times, but both were top ranked juniors. Currently, William is a tennis professional in Santa Monica, California.

It was at a tennis academy for William that Will’s passion for tennis began to outweigh his love of law. After years of law practice, he remembered how much he enjoyed being active and working with children. When he returned from the academy in Naples, Florida, he decided to take a break from practicing law. He began coaching tennis privately, frequently traveling with his students to national tournaments. In 2010 he came to work for the Little Rock Racquet Club, building a friendship with co-worker, Daniel Corrnelison, Their shared passion for junior tennis led them to successful certification in Heath Water’s ACE Tennis and the beginning of ACE Tennis Academy. ACE Tennis Academy began with Will’s son and five other players, but quickly began to grow. Over the next five years, ACE Tennis grew to about 80 players.  Daniel and Will decided it was in the best interests of the program to affiliate instead with Dr. Brian Gordon and his 3-D stroke biomechanics system, which they use to this day. Both Will and Daniel are two of a handful of professionals in the United States who are certified in Dr. Gordon’s biomechanical system.

In the fall of 2014, Athletic Club CEO, Frank Lawrence, met Simon Gale at a tennis owners’ and managers’ conference in South Carolina. Simon, then director of the Yonkers Tennis Center in Yonkers, New York, had one of the largest and most successful U10 tennis programs in the United States. Will flew to Yonkers and met with Simon and learned about his program. This consultation led to the start of the Under 10 program at The Athletic Clubs. The creation of the Tennis Academy was a major step in the development of junior tennis in the state of Arkansas. There are currently over 300 children enrolled in the program across two campuses, Little Rock Racquet Club and Little Rock Athletic Club. Players as young as three years old can learn the basic fundamentals of the sport. All kids are taught the same biomechanics used by the best pros in the world.  Will states that one of the most rewarding parts of his career as a coach is seeing his five year old players competing in red ball tournaments, serving, rallying, and keeping score.

The development and growth of The Tennis Academy is one of the many reasons why Will has been named the Arkansas PTR Member of the Year. PTR is the largest global organization of tennis teaching professionals with more than 15,000 members in 127 countries. It has the greatest percentage of multicultural and women members of any such organization.  PTR is dedicated to educating, certifying and servicing tennis teachers and coaches around the world in order to grow the game. In 2015, Will hosted two PTR certification workshops at the Racquet Club so aspiring coaches could become PTR certified. Will is certified in both performance and U10, achieving the level of professional, the highest certification available. Will continues to serve as the director for The Tennis Academy, now one of the largest junior tennis programs in the south.