A player on the women’s professional tennis tour for more than 10 years, Pam Telford competed in all four Grand Slams and reached a high of No. 14 in the world in the process. Telford has been a United States Professional Tennis Association-certified pro since 1991, was named USPTA’s Female Player of the Year in 1993, and was inducted into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002. When her career on the tour ended, she turned to coaching. She served as the head coach of the West Boca High School‘s girls’ tennis team and led players to both individual and team State Championships. Then she guided two South Palm Beach Women’s teams to league titles while working as a tennis pro at the Mission Bay Tennis Center. Now, Telford is the Head Tennis Professional at Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach.
How did you start playing tennis?
I grew up in New Jersey. I played some sports and liked softball the best. I finally swung a tennis racquet with my father at a small park near Fairfield, NJ when I was about 10 years old. We had walked by this park and saw the courts many times. He talked me into giving it a try. I soon met George Basco at the park, and he gave me lessons for the next few years. George inspired me, gave me confidence and a great tennis foundation. He and my father encouraged me to play in tournaments. I picked up the sport really fast and won several junior tournaments. In the fall before my sixteenth birthday, I moved to Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida.
What was some of the best advice Nick gave you that has helped you be successful on the tour and since?
Nick was incredible. He believed in his tennis students and pumped confidence into us every day. His academy had many top juniors in the country and the competition was fierce. He specifically wanted me to use my speed and be mentally tough. His advice was for me to “give it 100%, never quit and outlast your opponent.”
When did you decide to teach tennis, and how did you get your first teaching job?
After close to ten years on the tour and two right knee operations, I decided top competition was in my past. My good friend, Richard Centerbar, at Boca Grove Country Club, helped me study, pass my USPTA and get my first tennis lessons under my belt. I worked for Richard at his club for a couple of years until my husband Jeff and I decided to start a family. I soon started teaching at the club in my neighborhood part-time. This was great, I got to walk to my club and teach many of my friends. Addison Reserve was changing their tennis staff and recruited me to run their tennis program. It was my first real interviewing experience and they had more than 80 applicants. I’m fortunate they chose me.
What do you think women bring to the tennis teaching profession that make them a valuable asset to tennis clubs/facilities?
I know most South Florida clubs would like women pros but there doesn’t seem to be enough. Women pros are vital and are needed. Ladies teams dominate clubs. Having good women pros always enhances these programs. Women members love taking lessons from women pros.
When you applied to become the Director of Tennis, did you have any doubts about taking on the role? If so, how did you get beyond them?
Of course, I had doubts because I’d be taking on a role with many new responsibilities. I had to quickly learn administrative, computer and management skills. I asked a lot of questions and relied on the club management team to go over every detail that was necessary. I wasn’t afraid of learning and improving on the job. Teaching tennis was the easy part.
What do you enjoy most about being Head Tennis Pro at your club?
I really enjoy my relationships with my fellow staff and members. I like teaching my members and watching their improvement. They know they are reaching another level and this is very satisfying.
What challenges you the most about your current position?
COVID has given our industry a huge challenge. We needed to keep our members engaged and having fun, with no outside players allowed. We adapted our events and my staff helped keep the energy high. Our members still enjoy everything we do. Another challenge is being flexible and supporting many different personalities and the needs of our members. Listening skills are used every day.
Do you still play tennis for fun or competitively?
I still play for fun and like being on the court.
What advice would you give to other women who may be hesitant to apply for a higher-level position?
Women are needed at all clubs. You must believe in yourself, your teaching abilities and always be ready to learn. Don’t be hesitant to ask for advice from more experienced pros. Understand where you could improve, and work on it. And once you earn that new position, you’re learning never ends… run with it.
What do you think we as an industry can do to bring more women into those roles?
Work with local high school and college tennis programs and encourage interested women to become USPTA-certified as they are getting teaching experience. Always support one another if organizing or playing in fundraisers and pro-ams.
For more inspiring features on women in Florida tennis, visit USTAFlorida.com/whm21 and follow @ustaflorida on social media throughout the month of March.