A convert to tennis from baseball while in high school, Stansbury Park resident Bob Haines enjoys sharing the sport that changed his life with Tooele County youth.
Now 72 years old, Haines has grown to love tennis — a game he credits with saving his life — since he took up the sport in high school.
Haines grew up in southeastern Michigan, in a community that loves football, basketball and baseball. He had grown up playing baseball and succeeded at it.
In little league, Haines lead the players at RBI’s and competed with the best kids around. In high school he had a bright future in baseball, until he had a disagreement with his coach.
Haines and his coach didn’t see eye to eye. After spending two years on the junior varsity team, Haines quit the team, giving up the game he loved.
To fill the void, he joined the tennis team.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
Tennis became a game that Haines would be passionate about for the rest of his life
Haines brought a wealth of knowledge and talent from the tennis world with him when he and his wife, Donna, moved to Tooele Valley in 2008 to help raise grandchildren. They settled in Stansbury Park armed with plans to relax, golf and play tennis.
But Haines was soon disappointed to find out that he was living in what he called the “black-hole” of tennis.
“Grantsville and Tooele high schools had tennis programs and I was living in Stansbury with no courts,” he said.
Withdrawal from tennis had a negative effect on his life.
“The first year I was here, I gained 40 pounds,” he said. “I wasn’t active. I became depressed, unhealthy and my well-being was headed in the wrong direction.”
When Stansbury High School built tennis courts, Haines met a high school senior at the courts to play.
It turned out to be a day he would always remember. It was hot outside. Haines said he wore sweatpants because he was embarrassed about his weight, knee braces, and a back brace.
The teen beat him.
Haines went home and told his wife he needed to make a change. He said that decision saved his life.
In the following year, Haines lost 80 pounds and began playing tennis matches on a regular schedule.
With tennis back in his life, he needed his racquet re-strung. He asked around locally and found out the closest place to help him was Dick’s Sporting Goods in Salt Lake.
Haines made the drive and was appalled when a store employee said they expected to have the racquet for one to two weeks.
This was unacceptable to Haines. He went home and called his son, Darrell Haines, who owns the biggest tennis store on the East Coast called TennisTopia. His son sent him a stringing machine. He was now equipped to help himself.
Haines decided to open a little business out of his house to fill the void for local tennis players, which he named Tooele Racquet Sports.
“My motive was to stay active and get back into tennis,” he said. “I wanted to become a general tennis resource, because that’s my passion.”
Haines decided that his business would not retail inventory on hand. Instead, Haines offered services, like stringing rackets, lessons, fixing tennis machines, and information about what kind of racquet to purchase.
During a meeting with Stansbury High School tennis coach Jacob Jones, Haines explained that he was willing to string racquets, but didn’t want to take business away from anyone.
Haines went to walk away, but on a whim turned around and asked Jones if he needed any help with the Stansbury teams.
“I’m at a period in my life where I can help people,” Haines said. “I’ve had enough experiences. I have the resources. I have the time. And now I have the energy. That’s what makes me feel good.”
Seeing a need in Tooele Valley, Haines provides tennis lessons for all abilities and ages during the summer. He has kept his pricing low so that more people can enjoy the sport.
“I can make anybody into a tennis player,” Haines said. “You don’t have to be a good athlete to be good at tennis. You just have to have a reasonable expectation.”
After volunteering for five years with the Stansbury High School tennis team, coach Kevin Smith talked Haines into applying for a job as assistant coach.
Smith told Haines that someone had to fill the vacancy, and it should be him.
Haines took the job.
“My job is to get these kids out here playing tennis,” he said.
Haines wants each tennis player to be able to hit the ball, return a serve, and feel a part of the team. He doesn’t want a player walking away from the court and not wanting to return.
“I want to promote tennis in the valley,” Haines said. “I have met amazing people here. If I can raise the tennis level in the community, it makes your own team better.”
Haines’ programs are open to the public. Any student, child, or adult in the valley can participate.
“Kids are coming out wanting to play now,” Haines said. “Our program is starting to grow. We’re trying to give the kids an experience where they can get better and develop their self-esteem.”
Haines coaches tennis players who are looking to improve their skills.
“A good coach can look at somebody’s performance, analyze it, and make them play better — not just play like they played themselves,” Haines said.
But Haines’s volunteerism has not been confined to tennis.
Since moving to Stansbury Park, he has volunteered at Rose Springs Elementary and at Our Lady of the Lourdes Catholic School in Salt Lake City, helping children with math and reading.
After losing weight, Haines became a life coach at Weight Watchers, motivating people to eat healthy and exercise.
“The kids have given me a lot more than I have given them,” he said. “Something I’m passionate about, something to get me up in the morning, and that is what makes me happy.”
For more details about Haines and his Tooele Valley Racquet Sports’ programs, visit the Facebook page, Tooele Racquet Sports.