About

Steve Smith

Founder / Co-Director

Andy Fitzell

Co-Director

Lioba Fitzell

Manager

Our mission & Vision

Our mission is to help make quality tennis instruction more affordable and accessible by providing free online content and through our worldwide network.

Our vision is to see tennis being taught without opinionated egos or money-driven schemes, but rather with creative application that is based on proven scientific principles.

OUR STORY

GreatBase Tennis

GreatBase Tennis (GBT) was founded by Steve Smith. Steve has nearly fifty years of diversified experience in tennis. He has spent a lifetime gathering information, ideas and insights by studying accomplished tennis teaching masters and proven methodologies.

GBT is a curriculum; a pathway for all levels of players and teachers. The content Steve has assembled is a systematic approach to tennis instruction that is based on scientific principles and sound logic. Simply put, GBT is fact-based instruction for long-term development.

Prior to starting the world’s first college degree plan and full-fledged comprehensive curriculum for tennis teachers, Steve completed in-depth apprenticeships under Welby Van Horn, Dennis Van der Meer and Vic Braden. Leading tennis educators from around the world conducted monthly workshops during Steve’s tenure; a decade of formalized education where students were taught occupational competency as tennis-teaching pro-managers. Students from over forty states and thirty-five countries enrolled in the unique program which was offered at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

For four decades, Steve has continued to train tennis teachers. He has traveled to over thirty countries conducting clinics and camps. He also has offered an online educational program that has been centered around a 25-hour course called, TENNIS INTELLIGENCE APPLIED.

The results of Steve’s efforts have created a network of tennis teachers, coaches and administrators who work around the globe. Steve’s work can be measured by the number of lives he has touched. For example, his students have won at every level of the game and so have his students’ students. Steve’s work is not based on recruitment, he truly has developed players from the beginning level to the international championship level. Steve and his associates have documented the development of players and have an elaborate tennis library to prove it’s educational merit.

Name a college and it’s a safe bet that Steve has had a student play or coach there. Name a country and it’s a safe bet that Steve has had former students work there. Review the draws at a major pro event and it’s a safe bet that Steve has a student or one of his students’ students playing there.

GBT is just the opposite of the industry norm. Steve and his associates are not delivering a program based on self-created secrets that an Internet guru tells you must buy by midnight. GBT is defined by its name; one cannot argue with having a great base of fundamentals.

Steve has a first-hand handle on the work of legendary tennis teachers who have gone before us.  The contributions of Steve’s mentors formulate a wealth of information that should not be forgotten. In summary, GreatBase Tennis is a treasure for those learning to play and teach tennis.

VIC BRADEN INFLUENCE

Vic Braden (1929-2014)

The late Vic Braden’s work is still relevant today. Vic once said, “The Vic Braden method is the method of Isaac Newton”. It’s true that in tennis teaching there is a place for philosophy, but ball striking skills are about physics. “The dimensions of the court and physical laws dictate stroke-production, no coach’s opinion or any unique theory”, is a Braden theme that is at the forefront of GreatBase Tennis (GBT).

Steve Smith’s first exposure to Vic was just like the rest of millions of Americans. In 1974, Vic was entering people’s TV rooms during tennis matches telecasted by PBS. The network had no commercials and plugged in Vic’s entertaining one-minute tennis tips during change-overs.

Sports Illustrated magazine published the article on May 10, 1976, “Tennis is in the Stone Ages.” The article focused on the work of Vic Braden and his partner, Gideon Ariel. Vic was way ahead of his time, and, up to his last months of his life, he was quoted as saying that tennis is still in the stone ages. He used to say about the Internet, “Now such bad (tennis) information is going out so fast”. Steve, having read the article, says that he still placed himself in the category of thinking of Vic as more of an entertainer than educator. In 1977, Vic published his first book, “Tennis for the Future”. The same year Steve volunteered to assist the Boca Raton Tennis Association by showing one of Vic’s classic instructional films. Over a weekend in a mall, Steve played and re-played Vic’s film, “Go for a Winner.” Steve reports that that is when he realized people remembered Vic for his presentation and not his information. Soon after, a friend and fellow student of the game, Jim Mantle, analyzed Steve’s game based on Vic Braden principles. Vic disproved myth after myth that Steve, like millions of players today, was repeating on practice courts hour after hour.

Steve first attended Vic’s course (United States Tennis Academy) in California in ’78. Following this, Steve was fortunate to meet Tom Fey at the USTA’s Tennis Teacher’s Conference held in the old Roosevelt Hotel in NYC. Steve knew Tom was a Bradenite because of the questions Tom was asking during a presentation given by Nick Bollettieri. After the lecture, Steve approached Tom, and without confirming that he was on Vic Braden’s staff, asked him how one would go about working for Vic. Tom, a Braden staff member, explained. Six months later Steve was back in California to take the course and exam again. Steve’s second test score was the highest ever recorded. Vic’s program screened candidates, and upon approval one was allowed to observe. Steve observed classes every day, living in his van and bartending at nights. Steve would close the bar he worked at and then illegally jump in a swimming pool to cleanse himself from the hours spent in the smoke-filled bar. A few hours later he would be waiting at Vic’s office to ask for volunteer work. In a short period, of time Steve was offered a full-time position with pay. Initially he turned down the position, so he could continue to shadow Vic, but eventually he was needed on-staff.

Between 1979 and 2009, Steve continued to work for Vic in one capacity or another. Steve trained head coaches and their staffs that worked at Vic Braden Tennis Colleges located in the US and Europe. He also assisted in traveling clinics and was always honored when Vic would send him students who needed to rebuild their technical base. Steve designed and directed the first comprehensive curriculum and degree plan for students seeking occupational competency as tennis-teaching pro-managers, and he used Vic’s books as textbooks. Vic Braden’s educational contributions served as the backbone of the unique program.

Every time one of Steve’s students would win a national or international title, Steve would call Vic to thank him. GBT is the “Vic Braden method” enhanced with application ideas implemented by Steve and the other teachers he has studied.

Those associated with the GBT project are indebted to Vic Braden. Vic was a psychologist through formal study and a self-made bio-mechanist through informal study. He knew tennis backwards, forewords, upside-down and inside-out. Vic was the teacher’s teacher. He combined the science and art of tennis. In short, his work touched the lives of millions. Vic cared about people and thought deeply about the injustice of a little kid with a big dream being lied to by a misinformed coach who was only concerned about making money. The goal of the GreatBase Tennis pathway is to hold the torch of Vic Braden high and shine a bright light on tennis.

Educational Contributors
By no means is the GreatBase Tennis (GBT) curriculum one-dimensional. Vic Braden’s work, no doubt, is the cornerstone of our curriculum. Although, the accomplishments of our other contributors are world-class and their contributions to tennis are immeasurable.
 
Over one-hundred coaches are acknowledged for their input in our course called Tennis Intelligence Applied (TIA).  Steve Smith credits eight educational contributors as the main resources for TIA. The eight individuals served as pillars supporting the comprehensive curriculum and degree plan Steve designed and developed for tennis teachers. The expertise of these contributors was assembled to form our curriculum. As a result, GBT is a system of systems.
 
The contributors are listed below in alphabetical order. During Steve’s tenure at Tyler Junior College’s Tennis Tech program, the GBT pathway was crystalized and today is implemented by tennis teachers all over the world.
 

Vic Braden (USA)

The late Vic Braden was an author, researcher, and television commentator. His method of instruction is fact-based. Steve was a member of Vic’s instructional staff at Vic’s headquarters in California and he also served as a consultant for Vic’s tennis colleges in Europe. Steve also assisted Vic with clinics and special projects throughout three decades. Vic’s first book, Tennis for the Future, was used as a textbook for the Tennis Tech program and over the years Vic employed Steve’s graduates. Vic’s work will always remain relevant because the content is based on scientific principles.
 

Peter Burwash (Canada)

Peter is the founder of Peter Burwash International (PBI). His international group of teaching pros has served resorts, clubs and federations on four different continents. Peter is recognized for bringing a high level of professionalism and creativity to the tennis industry. Peter donated his time to become the first headliner to visit Tennis Tech. Following Peter’s initial visit, the PBI staff conducted an annual weekend workshop on the Tyler Junior College campus. PBI also hired graduates.
 

Harry Hopman (Australia)

The late Mr. Hopman is the winningest coach in the history of Davis Cup. In addition to working with Grand Slam champions, Mr. Hopman was a Grand Slam champion. His approach clearly demonstrated a work ethic that will always be respected in the world of competitive tennis. Our students worked during summer and semester breaks at Hopman International. 
 

Bill Jacobson (South African)

Bill developed the first laptop computer specifically designed for obtaining objective data by charting tennis matches. The data produced by his sophisticated instrument (CT120) made a major impact on the game. Steve taught parents and coaches how to chart during nationwide camps organized by Bill’s company (Compu-Tennis).  A handful of Steve’s students assisted television crews by providing immediate feedback to television commentators. 
 

James Loehr (USA)

James Loehr, a clinical psychologist, made an elaborate study of what players do in-between points and in-between games. Arthur Ashe stated in the 1980s, “Jim Loehr may be the most important person in all of tennis.”  The classy champion said this because Jim’s messages were making a profound change on the coaching of all sports. His first book, accompanying workbooks, and training tapes were also used as educational materials. Dr. Loehr also conducted on-campus workshops.

Welby Van Horn (USA)

The late Welby Van Horn was both a world-class player and a world-class teacher. He developed a system of instruction based on balance. A half-century later, Welby’s approach is still the best way to start beginners. During a ten year period, Welby developed more US national junior champions on a handful of courts in San Juan, Puerto Rico than the entire state of Florida. Welby lived to be ninety-four and Steve made periodic visits to his nursery home to listen to how his mentor would improve his highly-acclaimed method of instruction. Mr. Van Horn did not recruit players, he was capable of taking a player from being a beginner to being a national champion. Steve and his students had the privilege to teach for Welby.

Jim Verdieck (USA)

The late Jim Verdieck won fifteen national college championships without scholarship players. Jim was instrumental in helping his longtime colleague, Dennis Van der Meer, with tennis pro-education.  Jim was best known for being able to transform an average player into an All-American. Jim visited Steve’s Texas-based program to conduct his team-management course and Steve spent portions of three summers studying under Mr. Verdieck.
 

Dennis Van der Meer (South African)

The late Dennis Van der Meer founded the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR); an organization of tennis-teaching professionals. Dennis’s skill set with people, progressions and group dynamics were the genius of a master craftsman. Dennis was a pioneer in the field of teaching teachers. Throughout the ’80s, Dennis visited Steve’s program and conducted his week-long Tennis University program. Dennis’s books and manuals were also used. At various times, Steve students directed Dennis’s academy and summer camps. Steve also had the privilege of working on projects for Dennis as a ghostwriter.
Journey to the truth

The attached narrative is considered a  “must-read” for anyone who is serious about improving as a player or teacher. The read is also beneficial to tennis parents who are helping their child navigate a pathway to reach their max in competitive tennis. Barry Hindt’s words will let his reader know that Steve Smith and the GreatBase Tennis curriculum are not the tennis industry norm.

JOURNEY TO THE TRUTH

Pin It on Pinterest