From the hills of Hollywood to the beaches of Sussex
By Nick Roth
BETHANY BEACH -- Most people wouldn't trade the hustle and bustle of Hollywood life for slower, lower Delaware, but tennis instructor Marty Godwin has done just that.
Wanting to get back to his roots, the Bethany Beach native returned to Sussex County last year to offer affordable tennis lessons to people in his hometown.
While he's taught celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Maria Schriver, Godwin never imagined he would end up in his current profession.
"I never thought I would be a tennis teacher, but when you have the opportunity to make an impact on people's lives it feels good," he said. "I have to charge money because that's how I live and pay bills."
Spending most of his early life in the Bethany area, Godwin moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he finished high school. While there, he learned the game of tennis from Jimmy Evert, the father of tennis great Chris Evert.
After completing high school, Godwin moved on to play for Wake Forest University. There, he credits his coach, as well as Evert, for developing his skills and making him the athlete he is today.
"I was really blessed with having fantastic teachers," he said. "People used to stop off of the pro tour to take lessons with my college coach."
Godwin taps into his roots
Immediately following graduation from Wake Forest, Godwin returned to Sussex County and took his first job at Rehoboth Beach Sailing and Tennis. As the director of tennis and head tennis professional, he was responsible for sparking local interest in the sport and heading the junior development program.
After establishing himself in the tennis community, Godwin felt it was time to move on and accepted a position as the head tennis professional at the University Club in Houston, Texas. There, he learned everything he needed to know about the sport, he said.
"It was a really big hot bed for tennis activity," he said. "I really learned how to become a business professional there."
A unique approach
Things changed in 1990, when Godwin was involved in a serious car accident. All ended well, however, as he was offered a position at the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. After spending two years as a tennis professional at the club, Godwin felt it was time to start his own business.
His approach was different, however. Rather than teach individuals, Godwin wanted to bring families together through the sport.
"I started my own business (in Los Angeles) and my first client was (singer, songwriter and composer) Randy Newman," he said. "(The family) avenue of tennis really worked well. Rather than teaching tennis to kids and the parents go on their way, I incorporated the family. I didn't even need a business card it was so popular."
After Newman, other celebrities followed. Rob Reiner, Bruce Springsteen and former president and first lady, Ronald and Nancy Reagan were just some of the folks who stepped onto Godwin's court.
"These kind of people are used to having the best," he said. "You don't get to go to Maria Schriver's house if you're not good at what you do. That's the governor's house. No one gets near the Springsteen's unless your trusted."
While teaching the rich and famous in California, Godwin also organized tournaments and benefits to raise money for various charities. He hopes to continue the tradition in Delaware as the business grows.
'A true professional'
Over the years, Godwin has taught and touched the lives of many people, and according to long time friend and former student, Bruce Maloomian, his approach to instruction is what separates him from the rest.
"I can't say enough about him," he said. "He diagnoses something and gives an immediate and positive response. Some teachers try to teach kids like they are adults and it just doesn't work. (Godwin) gets that more than anyone I've ever seen."
Another former student, Steve O'Donnell, loved Godwin's approach to instruction and attested to his ability to simplify the game.
"From kids to grandparents, Godwin makes tennis fun," he said. "He is a true professional."
After establishing himself as a go-to guy in the Los Angeles area, Godwin decided to make the move back to his roots.
"After 17 years, I wanted to move back here," he said. "It's like gosh, I'm doing all of this in L.A. when I could be doing it in my own community. I did everything I could out there and I needed a new challenge."
In dire need
This area, Godwin said, is in dire need of affordable tennis instruction. That's why he has received such positive feedback, he said.
"I'm really excited because every place I go, people are saying that this area is really ready for something like this," he said. "It really needs a tennis community that's more than just lessons."
Godwin incorporates games into each lesson to make the sport easier to learn. The business, he said, will stretch along the coast from the Rehoboth/Lewes area to Ocean City, Md., and some inland areas.
While he can't be everywhere at once, he said he hopes to build a corps group of instructors who will share his view and approaches to tennis instruction.
"I really think of myself as a teacher," he said. "That's the way I've tried to live my career. When I left school, I wanted (to do something) that I would be proud of."
And so far, he is.
Original Article: http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/DCP03/803270368/1058/DCP
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