Hinsdale tennis instructor comes full circle

Off the court

Favorite vacation spot: Boca Grande in Florida

Favorite food: Big beef sandwich from Portillo’s restaurant

Favorite meal you prepare yourself: Spaghetti

The athlete you most admire: Roger Federer (“He’s such a great man and very approachable.”)

Favorite movie: Casablanca, (“because of Humphrey Bogart, he’s a man’s man.”)

As a boy, Tom Lockhart learned the game of tennis through the Hinsdale Tennis Association.

Now the Hinsdale resident runs the program, which teaches the game to children and adults from beginners to skilled competitors.

“You can go out to Burns Field and see people of all levels, from beginners to top players,” he said.

Lockhart played tennis for Hinsdale Central High School, and was the state doubles champion with Bro Ballantine in 1977. He played varsity tennis for Indiana University, where he earned a business degree. After college, he was a stock options trader.

When the 54-year-old retired from trading about 13 years ago, he returned to the sport he loves as a profession, taking over the reins of the tennis association, which is offered through the Hinsdale Parks and Recreation Department.

“Tennis is a lifelong sport,” Lockhart said. “It’s the absolutely best sport you can play after college.”

Lockhart also teaches private lessons to highly skilled players ages 10 to 18, with his partner Sam Sweeney in the High Performance Academy at the Oak Brook Tennis Center. The academy has fewer than 10 students at a time and draws primarily from Hinsdale, Oak Brook, Clarendon Hills and Western Springs.

“My expertise is very high-end,” Lockhart said. “We have numerous national champions” in the program.

Lockhart did not start playing tennis until he was 12. But that is late by today’s standards, if the player hopes to compete at the national level.

A player who starts when he is 12 will be competing against other 12-year-olds who have been playing for several years.

“You have to start when you are 8 or 10 years old. Otherwise you will be so far behind,” he said.

It’s possible to overcome that disadvantage, Lockhart said, but few people do.

“The kids I coach don’t play another sport. To be a top nationally ranked player, you have to be completely committed to one sport,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing, because the quality of tennis is so much better.”

He enjoys other sports and does not play tennis recreationally anymore.

“The kids I’m coaching are so good, I get a workout,” he said.

Lockhart and his wife, Susan, have lived in five different houses, but never moved out of Hinsdale.

“You start out with a small house. Then you buy a bigger house; then you buy a bigger house than that,” he said.

They have lived in their current home 13 years. When asked why they always stayed in Hinsdale, Lockhart said, “The people are nice and my mother still lives here. And there is no substitute for a safe neighborhood.”

For more information about the Hinsdale Tennis Association, call 630-789-7090 or visit http://www.villageofhinsdale.org/pr/default.php, and click on 2014 Winter/Spring Brochure.

For information about the Oak Brook Tennis Center, call 630-990-4233, or visit http://www.obparks.org/tennis/index.asp.