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Tennis Teacher Puts Club to Bed

October 29, 2013

by Mark Adam

Though summer is long gone, Albany Tennis Club has just closed down for the season. The tape has been pulled up and the red clay courts have been leveled. The club’s manager and tennis pro Larry Yakubowski has finally finished his summer job.

Albany Tennis Club Manager and Teaching Professional Larry Yakubowski at Ridgefield Park (Photo by Mark Adam).

Albany Tennis Club Manager and Teaching Professional Larry Yakubowski at Ridgefield Park (Photo by Mark Adam).

Yakubowski, 53, is a full-time middle school math and physical education teacher at Doane Stuart School in Rensselaer, leaving the meat of the tennis season, the summer, open to him. As club manager, he organizes programs for the club’s 300 members from May to October. He also teaches lessons and is certified by the Professional Tennis Registry and the United States Professional Tennis Association.

Members are attracted to the club’s rare, red clay courts at Ridgefield Park because they are easier on a player’s knees and ankles, Yakubowski said. His neon yellow, green and red shoes are flashy, contrasting with his slow, patient walk and old, white VW Beetle sitting in the parking lot.

“He’s a great tennis teacher and I don’t think there’s a soul at the club that could say a crass word about Larry,” said Mike DeRossi, president of the club’s board of directors. DeRossi joined about 10 years ago when Yakubowski was the tennis pro and hired him as manager in 2012.

Yakubowski’s goal is to make the club accessible to people who love tennis. Annual memberships are $220 for an individual or $110 for a college student. He sends regular emails to members, letting them know about upcoming events. He even welcomes non-members who can play for $15 a day.

“I want people to feel my energy about the game,” Yakubowski said. “The power of an invitation goes a long way.”

One club member who has taken lessons with Yakubowski is Richard Andress. The retired state worker and Pine Hills resident has played tennis for 40 years and plays at Ridgefield Park about three times a week during the summer, yet he still learns from Yakubowski.

“He picks up on things very fast,” said Andress, who has improved his serve from those lessons. “He’s always accentuating the positives.”

Yakubowski moved to the Capital Region in 1988 from Rhinebeck, where he grew up. He mostly played team sports like baseball and basketball in his youth, not tennis. He didn’t even play in college. But the sport’s popularity from its heyday and stars like John McEnroe and Miloslav Mecir pulled him in. He picked up the game in his mid-20s and has played ever since.

Even though he’s lost some quickness over the years, Yakubowski said he has improved as a player because he is more aware on the court.

Yakubowski and his wife Claire, who is also a teacher, will celebrate their 25th anniversary next month. They have raised a daughter and a son – Leigh is a college student at Vassar College and Samuel is a student at Bethlehem Central Schools.

One of Yakubowski’s hobbies outside of tennis is playing guitar. He enjoys the old singers and songwriters like Don MacLean, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel.

Amidst juggling family, teaching and other interests, Yakubowski still finds time to run the tennis club and help players, at all skill levels, improve.

“He’s a very patient and gentle guy, and folks respond almost universally well to his approach to teaching the game,” said Steve Beditz, a 20-year club member who plays twice a week during the summer and has taken lessons from Yakubowski.

As the weather turns colder, Yakubowski moves indoors for the winter tennis season, playing primarily at Sportime in Schenectady and the Saratoga YMCA in Wilton. When the impending winter gives way to warmer temperatures, the white VW Beetle will return to the Ridgefield Park lot and this club’s manager will be opening the gate for its members.

“I love this job,” Yakubowski said. -30-


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