88-year-old tennis coach teaches middle schoolers in Wauwatosa

WAUWATOSA — Hundreds of kids have experienced some net gains by working with a favorite local tennis coach.

If indeed, experience is the best teacher, then middle school tennis players in Wauwatosa are learning from one of the best. Erv Rother is an 88-year-old tennis coach. He says coaching the youngsters keeps him young.

“I’m still here. That’s why I don’t worry about birthdays. If I have a birthday, it’s here. I’m living. I’m not gone, right?” Rother said.

Rother is anything but gone, although he doesn’t move around quite as well as he once did. It is evident that Rother loves tennis, although sometimes he doesn’t recognize the sport he used to play at North Division High School.

“Tennis was like – you had a racquet that was wooden. All we had were playground courts and that’s where we played. It wasn’t like they have today with all these tournaments and facilities. I learned by hitting against the wall and observing the better players,” Rother said.

Observing Rother means watching a teacher, not a yeller or a critic. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders have varying levels of ability and maybe even interest, which is fine with their coach.

“I find the girls to be more anxious to participate and more cooperative really. Boys – I was a boy – you get macho sometimes,” Rother said.

Rother was in the insurance business before retiring about 25 years ago. That’s when he started coaching kids and he has influenced many of them over time.

“If you treat people as a person, as an individual, that’s what I tried to do. I look at young kids and if they’re struggling, they’re not all going to have the same talent. You gotta spend a little time and show a little interest in them. I think I’ve influenced some of the kids, I’m sure,” Rother said.

Rother says he has no intention of stopping.

Rother was married for 53 years, and said he originally got serious about playing tennis because he gained too many pounds thanks to his late wife’s great cooking.

Rother turned 88 years old Tuesday, May 22nd.

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