Tennis: a Family Affair
Once in a while, you find stories that remind you how much tennis can mean to a person and sometimes, to entire families. Take the Howard family for example; out of six members, five out of the six of them play tennis at a high level, but that’s not what’s important to them. Gil Howard, father of Suzie, Kevin, Mike and Scott, transmitted is love of the game, and now, it’s what unites them in so many ways.
At the origin of this Howard-NorCal dynasty is patriarch Gil Howard. A well respected tennis player of his own, he played for Sacramento State and turned professional. Along the way, he played against tennis great Arthur Ashe in doubles, but his fondest memories are the ones shared with his sons and daughter. “My father takes a lot of pride in us and loves to hit with us and even helps us get in shape,” Scott explains. As a statement to the kind of bond tennis has created among the Howards, is the simple fact that all three sons have played mixed doubles with their sister Suzie. Even more telling, all three sons have played with their father. “Tennis connects us all and when that happened, it hit something emotional,” Kevin says.
Beyond the fact that the Howard’s love for tennis in undeniable, their story is even more impressive
when youlook at their achievements as a whole. Mike was No. 400 ATP in singles and played against John McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and Tim Mayotte, just to name a few, and to top it off, he achieved this ranking in doubles with his brother Kevin. Their father, Gil, has a resume anybody would be jealous of. He won the World Championships in the Men’s 55 in singles in 1994, won 13 national tournaments, played against tennis greats like Roy Emerson with his son Mike, and has a total of seven national father-sons national titles, making him the title holder for most father-sons national titles in the U.S with three sons. Mike and Gil earned five Gold Balls, while Kevin and Scott each won one with their father. “We have a lot of fun playing together,” says Scott. “It’s always a highlight when we play together, and it creates a bond between us that is unbelievable.”
Even though results are not their primary focus, you can’t help but be in awe of how so many members of one family can compete at such a high level in one sport. Scott and Kevin both earned 2016 Player of the Year awards at the 2016 USTA NorCal Senior, Open, Family Awards Luncheon earlier this year. Scott earned Men’s 50 Player of the Year while Kevin won the Men’s 55 Singles and Doubles Player of the Year, with doubles partner David Meacham.
Even with all their individual achievements, all four kids praise their father for their love of the game, their success, but most importantly the memories tennis has created for them. “Dad is really the one responsible for our success,” Kevin proudly states. “Something we have enjoyed so much is during the holidays, all of us play for three or four hours together. These are the memories
that stick with us and it’s all through Dad and tennis.” Scott was quick to echo how much tennis has meant to them in so many ways. “Tennis has helped us stay in shape and have the motivation to exercise. It’s a lifestyle, a hobby and it has lots of different purposes that are so good for you.”
Through it all, the love of tennis has never left the Howards, who wouldn’t want it any other way. Their passion for tennis has become a career for both Scott and Mike as they both coach tennis as a living. What resonates the most listening to this incredible family, is how much closer tennis has brought them through the memories they share and all the positives it has brought into their lives.