Following a successful pre-professional tennis career in his native Brazil, Ross School Tennis Director Vinicius Carmo came to the United States as a student-athlete for the University of Tennessee. After accepting a summer job in the Hamptons, Vinicius made his home here, leading tennis programs throughout the region. He is the founding director of Ross School Tennis Academy (RSTA) and has coached several championship-winning tennis teams during his nine years at Ross.
How did you come to play tennis? I began playing tennis when I was eight years old. My father used to play, and I would hit balls against the wall. In Brazil, you’re practically born playing soccer, and I used to play on teams, but I fell in love with tennis as an individual sport. When I won, it was on my own merits, and when I lost, it was my own fault. By the age of 10 or 11, I started competing in tournaments, and I have not stopped since then.
What was your experience as international student-athlete in college? The United States is really the only country where you can play sports in college. In Brazil and other places, you have to choose: play sports or go to school. I went to the University of Tennessee on a tennis scholarship for four years. Going from Brazil to Tennessee was a big culture shock, but I’m glad I chose to go to college. I got an education and had a social life, which my training schedule hadn’t ever allowed.
How did you become involved with Ross School? I was working as the regional director of a summer tennis club in Amagansett and a club in East Quogue, and a lot of Ross students drove 40 minutes each way to get there because there were no comparable competitive tennis programs in East Hampton. My students’ parents put me in touch with Mrs. Ross, who was planning to open a Tennis Center, and she invited me to join the program. That was nine years ago, and the Tennis Center has grown steadily since then. There are very few places in the country where you can get a great education and great training under one roof, and I think that is one of the biggest reasons that RSTA has been successful.
What was some the best advice you ever received from a coach? Resilience and persistence matter so much in tennis. In team sports, half of the players win and half lose in any game, but in tennis, everything comes down to one person. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been how to face and overcome adversity. I use them every day of my life.
Which role do you find most difficult, athlete or coach? That’s a tough question! Both are difficult, but being a parent-coach is definitely the hardest. My stepdaughter played on the tennis team, and my eight-year-old son now plays in tournaments. There are a lot of emotions involved when I watch my children compete. As a coach, I can be with them in training, but once they step onto the court, there’s a lot they have to figure out on their own. I get so nervous.
What is your coaching philosophy? The main goal of my coaching is to give my students tools to deal with life challenges. Even if a player is not going to be the next Nadal or Federer, the experiences they have on the court are invaluable. I cannot imagine my life as a coach, husband, or father without the lessons that tennis has taught me, and I want to teach them the same skills.
What do you wish more people knew about tennis? Tennis is a lifetime sport! I recently went to a tennis conference in Florida, and I watched an international tournament of super-seniors, the best players in their countries ages 65 to 85. It was inspiring to see the athletes competing. There aren’t many sports that you can continue playing that late in life, but with tennis, it’s never too late to start, and you can play throughout your life.
To learn more about Tennis @Ross, Ross School Tennis Academy, and the Tennis Center’s community offerings, please visit www.ross.org/tennis.