By Fran Somers
What you need to know about the new CSA tennis coach is this: After a long day of teaching tennis, he likes nothing better than to watch re-runs of Wimbledon.
Steve Shreiner—the No. 2 ranked USTA player for men’s doubles in his age group—really loves the game. Steve isn’t new-new to the CSA. He coached tennis here for four years in the 1980’s, and for 27 years at Crystal Downs Country Club.
“I’ve always hustled tennis balls,” Steve says. “I learned to play tennis on the CSA courts at age 7. My grandparents had a cottage near Lake Michigan, and I’d hit the ball against the backboards on those courts, then ride my bike to tennis and swimming lessons.”
Steve was lucky to be taught by Oberlin College coaching legend Lysle Butler as a kid at the CSA, and then to cross paths with him at Oberlin because his high school team used Oberlin’s courts. After graduating from Miami University in Ohio, Steve taught American history in Cincinnati, and coached at the local racquet club. He and his wife Wanda raised a few tennis players of their own, and after retiring, Steve and doubles partner Howard Ames began playing in USTA tournaments.
Steve, 73, downplays his wins, but there are trophies and purses. His most cherished tennis moment, however, was when he and his son, Brent, qualified for the father-son division of the US Open in 1988. They “went a few rounds” but mostly loved the spectacle of seeing the pros play and the camaraderie with CSA friends who came to cheer them on. Of course he did have to ask Jim Buzzell, the managing director, for the time off. “He said, ‘Go have fun, but it will come out of your pay.’ ”
The kids and adults who attend tennis lessons at the CSA this year will get a lesson that Steve’s favorite player excels at: never giving up. “Rafael Nadal never gives up, even if he’s way behind.” Nadal was forced to withdraw from the Wimbledon quarterfinals on July 7 after tearing an abdominal muscle, but Steve admires his willingness to fight for every point. “He stuck it out for over four hours. He’s just a great sportsman.”
That’s a message Steve would like everyone to take to heart. “My serve, my forehand, my backhand—they’re nothing special. But when I get knocked down, I get back up. Even if I lose, I can accept it.”
A friend once estimated that Steve has hit a tennis ball more than 8 million times. That could explain the shoulder he blew out 13 years ago—his only serious tennis injury. For anyone looking for a less strenuous game, Steve is not opposed to pickleball. “It’s wonderful for some people. I teach it sparingly because I’m a tennis purist, but I appreciate that pickleball is social and still good exercise.”
For those sticking with the big court, here are Steve’s five tips to improve your game:
- Move your feet
- Don’t over-hit; it’s about keeping the ball in play, not hitting hard
- Watch better players
- Compete so you can focus and see where you’re at
- Practice, practice, practice
“I watch good tennis, it makes me want to improve. The day that I can’t improve, I better put my racket down.” Will that day ever come? “I don’t know when I’m going to retire. It’s sooner than later, but I will keep doing it because I enjoy sharing the game with other people.”
Rounding out the coaching staff with Tennis Manager Steve Shreiner are Noah Buntain, Jon Blessing, assistant tennis manager, Caitlin Siles, Avery Leete, and two of Steve’s grandchildren: Olivia Kockaya and Hannah Shreiner (not pictured).