Josh's Fresh Take: May 2018 Edition

The Legend, Bob Exell – Part 1

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.
This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the legendary coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre, Bob Exell. Bob has personally been a tremendous influence on my own coaching development and has provided an incredible wealth of knowledge and support in my three years of working at UBC. Naturally, I was interested in learning about his beginnings to the sport of tennis as well as his approach to playing in matches, both physically and mentally.
To my surprise, Bob began playing tennis at a fairly late age, around 16 years old, at his old stomping ground at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. “I kind of fell in love with it. I would play after work. I was a student going to University and I got a job at the Ministry of Environment. After work I would head down to beacon Hill Park. I hadn’t really played before but I kind of fell in love with the game and started playing there.”
Two years later, Bob moved to Vancouver and began training at the North Shore Winter Club alongside former No. 1 ATP doubles player, Grant Connell. “Grant was 13 and I was 18 and we would meet after school. I was going to SFU at the time and we would just play for two hours every day except for the weekends. He was my neighbor too, relatively close, a few blocks away.” This training with Grant was where Bob really hones his tennis skills. He referred to himself as a ‘court rat’ as he was constantly hanging around the tennis courts trying to work on his game or play other athletes. This passion for tennis led Bob to coaching summers at the Lonsdale Rec Centre, to becoming an Assistant Pro at the West Vancouver Tennis Club, and at 23 years old he was the Concessionaire and Head Pro at Stanley Park. In the span of seven years, Bob started playing tennis for the first time, trained with Grant Connell, and finally became a head pro tennis player, giving advice and coaching feedback to athletes all over Vancouver.
Over the years, Bob has not been shy of participating in his fair share of tournaments. If you can’t find Bob coaching on court at the UBC Tennis Centre, it is likely that he is on court elsewhere playing in a match. His biggest piece of advice for players preparing for a tournament is to really know your opponent, both their weaknesses and strengths, so you have a better idea of what to expect before the game. “You have to think about what has worked in the past and try to exploit that style if it was working. If you are finding that you are being challenged by that player and you have not done well, then you are going to find some other way to try to win. Try different tactics.” For Bob, he loves to grind down his opponents and is well known as a ‘retriever-style’ player. Someone who loves to run and track down the ball across the court, which in turn can tire out and irritate a lot of players. “I frustrated a lot of people. They used to draw straws to play me in league matches because they did not want to play me. They realized the match was going to be super long. I think I had the longest match in Nationals one year, it went on for five hours and it was only a 3-set match.” Do not try and tire out Bob, he will simply play all day if he has to. Hours, days, nights – the Retriever lives on.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my sit-down with the legend himself, Bob Exell.
Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.