Since his childhood, baseball always seemed to make sense to Mike Perekupka. He played in high school, then on a club team at the University of Maryland. After graduating, he planned to coach or find another way to stay involved with the sport.
Then he rediscovered tennis.
“I had played tennis in the past just for fun, but always focused on playing baseball competitively – that was my sport,” Perekupka said. “After college, I started working as a teacher at Cinnaminson High School (N.J.), and was looking for a coaching job. The boys’ tennis coaching position opened up, so I thought about it and gave it a shot.”
Just like that, Perekupka, also a math and statistics teacher at Cinnaminson, was hooked.
Perekupka didn’t know much about the mechanics behind a swing or the proper footwork to hit a forehand, but since his first day as a coach in 2009, he showed something that makes the best coaches stand out: a connection with the kids, and the desire to help them get better.
Coming from a family full of teachers, that part was natural.
“I love watching the growth of the team and the growth of the players,” he said. “The kids on the team are smart, competitive and fun to be around. It’s a really cool team environment.”
Naturally, Perekupka started hitting more with some of the kids during practice, and then hitting even more with some friends outside of school. About two years ago, he decided to focus on his own game.
While continuing to coach and teach, he began playing more and looking for ways to improve. A former catcher and first baseman, he always had good footwork, hand-eye coordination and athletic ability, but needed instruction from somewhere. He watched YouTube videos, read tips and drills in tennis publications, and asked for advice everywhere he went. It wasn’t exactly formal training, but his game reached a new level.
“I really tried to fine tune it and put my game together and correct my weak mechanics,” he said. “I’ve gotten better, but I think my favorite part of the game is still the mental aspect, and the battle within a match.”
In June, Perekupka played in his first-ever USTA event when he laced up his sneakers to compete in the US Open National Playoffs. He won his first match before dropping a three-setter in the second round.
With that experience now in the books, you can expect to see more of him in tournaments, at the park, or anywhere else he sees a court.
“Whatever happens, I love the game,” he said. “I love learning and getting better.”
For information about how to get involved in USTA adult programs, click here.