New VCC tennis pro a Jeff’ of all trades
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 23, 2001
[10/23/01]He’s able to string a racket faster than a speeding locomotive and leap tall nets in a single bound. No, it’s not Superman. It’s just Kupers, man.
Jeff Kupers, the tennis pro at Vicksburg Country Club, is much more than just a teaching pro although he’s pretty good at that, too. Kupers is also a handyman, businessman and one of the most skilled racket-stringers in the world, one of only 425 people who hold the rank of Master Racquet Technician, or MRT.
To become an MRT, stringers must pass an initial written and hands-on exam given by the United States Racquet Stringer Association, as well an annual three-part test to maintain the certification.
“It’s a neat thing. I’m always reading up on that,” Kupers said with a laugh. “I’m a tennis geek when it comes to that.”
On any given day Kupers can be found working on the courts at VCC, although it’s not always on his game. He might be keeping the clay surface level, working on a problem with the chain-link fence or even helping improve the drainage system. And that’s when he’s not running the pro shop or giving tennis lessons.
“This week I’ve been in chain-link repair,” he said with another hearty laugh. “The court repair is just phenomenal. There’s just so many things. But knowledge is everything. The more knowledge you have, the more you know and the less you freak out when something does go wrong.”
All of the extra work does translate into long days sometimes as long as 14 hours but the 31-year-old Kupers said it’s a job he always wanted to do.
A good player on the junior and semi-pro circuit he was ranked as high as 23rd in the country in the 25-and-up age group he came home to Van Buren, Ark., near Fort Smith on a summer break from the University of Arkansas and took a job as a local club pro. He enjoyed the job so much that he dropped out of college one year shy of earning a marketing degree to stay on as a full-time pro. He said he sometimes wishes he had finished college, but wouldn’t trade his job for anything.
“I love the job. I’ve never thought of it as a lot of stress. The 12-hour days just fly by,” he said.
He also has no regrets about not trying to make it on the pro tour especially when he looks at his paycheck. A good player in minor professional tournaments averages about $15,000 per year, while a good club pro can make between $60,000 and $100,000.
“I’ve got some friends that are great players and I’m fortunate for being in that circle, but I knew early on that I wasn’t going to make any money,” Kupers said. “Even younger, I really had no aspirations of being a pro player. I’ve always enjoyed playing, but I don’t think I ever said I want to do this for a living.’ ”
So he created memories on the court by teaching rather than playing. One of his women’s teams won an Arkansas state championship in 1999, and another student, University of Minnesota freshman tennis player Chris Wettengel, ranked in the Top 25 in the nation in the 18-year-olds’ age group in 2000.
At VCC, he hopes to create a United States Tennis Association league for the city players currently have to travel to Jackson to play in a USTA league expand the club’s junior program and get more people involved in VCC’s program by offering more tournaments.
“When you’re in a club environment, you’re almost on an island. But if you make the island big enough, it really helps the whole community,” Kupers said.