Fair Game

Dennis Oliveira spends his days making tennis fair and fun on the Princeton Racquet Club courts. His nights are a bit different.


A jack-of-all-trades at the tennis club, Oliveira spends eight hours of each day running tournaments, fixing computers, hanging lights and doing general repair work. After a full day immersed in tennis, he drives home, changes outfits, and begins his shift as a New Jersey police officer.

“When I leave the club for the day, I turn into a different person,” he said with a smile. “The two jobs are pretty different.”

While they are different, the two jobs are a perfect mix for Oliveira. He said he spent much of his childhood on the grounds of Princeton Racquet Club (PRC), where his father worked for a number of years.

“I basically grew up here. The courts were almost like my backyard,” he said of PRC. “When I got older, I didn’t think about staying involved with tennis, I thought about staying involved specifically with PRC. And at the same time, being a police officer has always been my main goal in life. It’s busy, but I get a chance to do both.”

In his time at PRC, Oliveira has become known as one of the area’s top tournament directors. His outlook on tennis tournaments is refreshing: get every kid possible on the court, and keep them playing for as long as possible.

Using compass draws and a non-elimination format, Oliveira can do that. It’s a mindset that goes a long way with players and parents in New Jersey, and Oliveira was recognized this year as the 2013 Middle States Tournament Director of the Year. He was honored at the New Jersey District Awards Ceremony on April 6 at Laurel Creek Country Club.

“I like to say to parents, ‘No matter what, your child is going to play as many matches as we can get them to play,’” he said. “We want parents to enjoy the fact that their kid is going to actually play. It’s not one match and done. From a parent’s standpoint, it’s the best bang for their buck. For the kids, it’s the most action they can get.”

As different as the two jobs are, Oliveira finds plenty of similarities. The biggest one, often times, is the element of surprise.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” he said. “When I come into the club, I’m not sure if I’ll be fixing a computer, or getting on the lift to 40 feet above the floor, fixing something on the roof. As a police officer, it’s the same way. There are calm days, and difficult days. You can end up seeing and experiencing anything.”

Because of his packed schedule, Oliveira doesn’t get much time to himself. When he does, he enjoys camping and spending time with his friends. He doesn’t get to play nearly as often as he’d like, but the sport is still one of the biggest highlights of the day. He hopes to continue to promote the game and get more and more players involved at PRC and beyond.

“It’s a great sport and it teaches a lot of lessons,” he said. “Kids enjoy playing it. That’s how it should be.”

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