Harold Hardy remembers being about 16 years old when he fell in love with the game of tennis. “I was really more focused on basketball at the time,” explains Harold. “Until one day, when I was living across the street from the University of Wisconsin, and I saw a tall man playing tennis against a brick wall. I thought, ‘I want to learn how to do that.'”
And learn he did! A string of chance meetings led to a series of golden opportunities which, when coupled with a lot of hard work and a fearless desire to follow his passion, led Harold to become a certified tennis instructor and nationally-renowned tennis coach.
Eventually, he landed back in St. Augustine and founded the Joy of Tennis Academy. Sweet; inspiring; simple. End of story, right? Not so fast. What really sets Harold apart from so many others is the fact that he chose to leave the sport – and a very lucrative career – when he was at the top of his game. “I still loved tennis but I realized that the stress of coaching, which included some very high-profile clients, was taking its toll. I had to get out and do something different.”
What he decided to do next might leave you thinking that Harold went from the frying pan right into the fire: he chose the restaurant business. “I was very successful in each endeavor,” he explains. “I managed businesses, opened new enterprises, traveled to different parts of the country, and really learned a lot.” He laughs, then says, “And I enjoyed almost every minute of it.”
Family obligations called Harold back to St. Augustine and with his return came a renewed interest in introducing to others the sport that had given so much to him. “I didn’t have anyone to teach or coach me when I was younger. There is a chance for me to change that for other children who can benefit from learning how to play tennis.” And that became the foundation for the Joy of Tennis Academy.
Just what is it that sets tennis apart from other sports? “Anyone of any age can learn to play tennis and benefit from it,” explains Harold. “My youngest client is about 16 months old!” Harold outlines the advantages of starting the game at such an early age – discipline, strategic thinking, coordination, and purposeful play. The folks at iQurious Kids, an online child development forum, agree with him, saying that “tennis teaches sportsmanship in youngsters and sharpens their strategic and problem solving abilities.” It can also improve balance and reaction time and increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels for participants of all ages.
Harold’s dream is to expand the reach of the Joy of Tennis Academy. “I partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in 2016, am connected with the St. Johns County school system, and would like to encourage homeschoolers to learn more about the Joy of Tennis Academy as an option for structured physical activity.”
Learn more about the Joy of Tennis Academy by emailing [email protected] Photography by Kate Gardiner.