***Zito Baccarani, a 60 year old International Tennis Federation white badge referee and white badge chair umpire, currently lives in Etobicoke, Ontario and is a retired school vice-principal. Zito is an avid basketball player and a golfer who also enjoys playing tennis. Zito’s daughter, Jennifer, was a highly motivated tennis player who began her College career at the University of Houston, and completed it at the University of Nebraska. She did very well and loved to compete. She recently began playing competitively again. Zito’s son, Matthew, was a National Champion in U18 doubles and finished nationally as high as third in U16 Singles. He played at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and was ranked fourth in the NCAA Division 1 in doubles. He has coached on the Women’s Professional Tour and has recently been a teaching pro at York Racquets Tennis Club in downtown Toronto.***
ONcourt: You have had a life filled with tennis experiences. What are some of your fondest memories?
Zito Baccarani: The fondest memories I have are of watching our kids play tennis and succeed at something they very much enjoyed, all the way from just starting to learn how to play to competing at the NCAA level. Learning how to compete and deal with the on-court ups and downs helped them to become the great people that they are today. I could still watch them. It always gave us great pleasure, for which I hold great memories.
ONcourt: What has tennis meant to you and your family?
Zito Baccarani: Tennis brought us together in many ways. We would travel together and be holed up in some small motel room for many weekends of the year, listening to the kids fight, working together to help them achieve their goals, in some far away place like Windsor, Stratford, Kingston or Ottawa. All the time not realizing what a special time it was, but looking back at it, it truly was. My wife, Janet, and I, enjoyed travelling great distances to watch the kids play tennis in university in the USA. Janet, who is a Chartered Accountant and Financial Planner, started her own company called Dedicated Financial Solutions, located in Mississauga, and has taken on our daughter, Jennifer, as her business partner. They are great friends.
We would often play doubles with the kids – adults vs kids; girls vs boys; or, brown heads vs red heads – until they got too good for us and then it was mostly watching them and pulling for each of them, together as a family. Tennis was a large part of our lives for many years.
ONcourt: Zito, please tell us about a memorable moment if not favourite – your accident this summer in Granby. We never knew officiating was such a contact sport?
Zito Baccarani: It was at The Granby Challenger in July on my wife’s birthday. She received a call from Tony Cho, one of the top tennis officials in Canada, telling her that my umpire’s chair had blown over and that I was in the hospital with 8 broken ribs, a punctured lung and a concussion. The chair had a large sun umbrella attached to it and caught a gust of wind. I landed on my head with the chair crushing my ribs as I fell upon the arm rest. My shoulder also got crushed but luckily was not dislocated. I was chairing a professional women’s match involving Sharon Fichman, a good friend of the family. She was instrumental in getting me some help and pulling the chair off of me. I woke up in the hospital a few hours later without any memory of what had occurred and with Tony Cho sitting beside me. All I remember is that it was second set, 5-3, 30 all. Two more points and I would have had a lot more fun this past summer. Two months later, I had to have surgery to remove blood from around my lung from the original contusion. Six months later, I am still recovering and trying to get my body back to where it was before the fall. It is a slow process, but I keep working at it.
ONcourt: If you had one message as a tennis parent to other tennis parents, what would it be?
Zito Baccarani: My singular message to other tennis parents is to not worry about if your son or daughter is winning or losing. That is exactly the kind of pressure that they do not need. Let your child develop a love for the game first. Everything else will take care of itself. Of course, you want to save them from the hardship of suffering through failure, and you want to celebrate their successes, but please do not live vicariously through your children. Let them learn how to deal with the positives and negatives of tennis, just as you would in other facets of their lives. It is not always easy to do and I must admit that it was not easy for me, but in hindsight that is the way I would always want to do things and will do things if my two beautiful granddaughters decide to take up the game, or anything else that they wish to do, for that matter. I would also offer up that same message to coaches, who are sometimes understandably frustrated by their proteges’ performance or behaviour on court. These are young people, still in the throes of learning about whom they are and whom they will become. Give them some leeway to make some mistakes and the corresponding corrections, of course with your support and guidance. They are not trying to fail in order to upset you. They want success as much or more than you do. So don’t take it personally. They will very likely pleasantly surprise you with their reactions and how they are capable of bouncing back. So to parents I would say: “Let go a little, and trust your children to find their own way on the tennis court and in life.”
ONcourt: I would like to thank you on behalf of many of us who really appreciate the way you help develop our youngsters through your management of them at different events.
Zito Baccarani: Thank you, Pierre.