From the time he was nine years old, BYU freshman John Pearce has had the unique opportunity of playing for his high school tennis team, traveling to new places for tournaments and winning national championships, all with his father as his coach.
John’s father, Brad Pearce, has been the men’s tennis coach at BYU for the last eight years — but the tennis tradition didn’t start there. John Pearce’s grandfather coached at BYU as well, from the mid 1960s to 1983.
“I grew up on these courts,” Brad Pearce said. “(My dad) taught me, along with my brothers and sisters, how to play, and so my kids represent a third generation of tennis players.”
“When Brad graduated he was the number-one player in the U.S. and number five in the world,” his wife, Cindi Pearce, said. “He actually ended up going to play for UCLA, which was the number one ranked team in the country. He said it would have been a really tough choice if his dad was still there at BYU, but his dad had retired.”
Recruited by schools like Harvard, Princeton and Columbia, John also faced the difficult decision of choosing where his tennis career would continue. After much consideration, John chose BYU, allowing once again for his father to be his coach.
Brad Pierce said the relationship with his son helps him to demand a lot of him on the court.
“I think it can go two ways with a father-son relationship or a father-daughter,” he said. “It can go maybe a little bit harder or a little bit softer, and I probably tend to be a little harder. I think as far as the team situation goes … John understands that I will be one of those father-coaches that will be tougher on his son rather than lighter.”
John’s father doubling as his coach works well for the Pearce family.
“I’ve enjoyed having him (coach),” John Pearce said. “There’s not many difficulties with having one of the best coaches in the whole country as your full-time coach that lives with you.”
Teammate Keaton Cullimore noted the differences in Brad and John’s relationship on and off the court.
“On the court there’s a lot more intensity,” Cullimore said. “But then off the court there’s a lot more joking. It’s definitely a lot different; when they’re on the court, it’s all business.”
Brad Pearce said tennis has strengthened his relationship with his children and he’s grateful for the time he’s had with them.
“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my kids, and I think hopefully that’s been a blessing,” he said. “I think we know each other well. (My children) have seen the best of me, and they’ve seen sometimes the worst of me.”
Brad said developmentally John Pearce is a balanced young man. He has always earned good grades, worked hard at tennis, made time for his family and even makes time to serve his community.
Perhaps the family can thank the National Training Camp that John went to as a child, where the hosts sat the parents down to discuss what kinds of things would help a tennis player’s development.
“(They said) the ideal tennis player development would be set up where you’d have your on-court coach and you’d have your developmental coach, who is in charge of everything (else),” Cindi Pearce said. “So at that time we put our family plan together that Brad was the on-court coach, but I was in charge of everything else. I was actually always the one in charge of saying ‘No, (John’s) not playing tennis because he hasn’t done his homework,’ and Brad had no say.”
Cindi Pearce is known as the “team hero” because of all her contributions.
“She plans all the team parties,” Cullimore said. “She takes all the pictures; she does a lot. I don’t know what would happen without her.”