If you’re a tennis enthusiast, you likely balance time spent in tournament grandstands cheering on the superstars of the circuit with lessons, partner practices and amateur tournaments of your own. In which case, the club at the Bonita Bay Community in Bonita Springs is a little like nirvana. Part of the draw for members is its 18 pristine Har-Tru courts. But even more compelling is its director of tennis, Paula Scheb. The former all-American doubles champion has dedicated her career to teaching the Game of Kings to Floridians, while single- handedly raising two great-nieces, ages 9 and 15. In her 22 years at the club, the Sarasota native has had a hand in its expansion, overseen several reinventions, and taught an eternally grateful stream of tennis lovers who eventually become, she says, “a part of your life.” Below, Scheb’s take on what makes the Bonita Bay tennis experience unique for her and her students.
How did you first come to tennis?
My mom got me into it. I later went to the University of Florida, where I was No. 2 in the country, but I knew I wanted to teach. I unabashedly say I have world’s best job. How awesome is it to be around people who want to have fun on the court and share their love of the game with you? It’s so cool to watch relationships build through tennis. Looking back to when my mom got sick, it was her tennis people who were there for her.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
What’s fun is the a-ha moment, when you see people getting really into it. My favorite people to teach are brand new players. They’re excited to be there, all new and fresh. The oldest person I’ve started was 69 and she played into her 80s. There’s not one person I’ve ever taught who has not gotten hooked. Tennis has a way of enhancing people’s lives, by building skills and self-esteem and confidence.
Is it unusual to be a female tennis director?
When I started, I was the only female director in our area, and there weren’t more than a dozen in the country. My résumé’s better than a lot of the guys’ but on the court, I’d probably lose to about 70 percent of them; they’re just stronger. But women speak a different language, have a different skillset—maybe more nurturing, more empathetic. I have a female head pro at the club, and her number one characteristic is that she’s likeable. It’s a bonus that she teaches well and is a great player. But people have to like you before they’ll trust you enough to learn from you.
How impressive that you’ve been at the club for 22 years!
I’ve got to give credit to our members; they’re good people. One of them recently injured her knee, so I told her, “We’ve got to get that taken care of.” I went to a couple of doctor’s appointments with her, because she has no family down here. What a privilege to be a part of that that. I couldn’t work a job for 22 years if it didn’t feel good.