We heard about Michael-Ray when the PTR awarded him Humanitarian of the Year last February. Then we found an article in the Beirut Times about his work in Lebanon. Very impressive, we thought. Let's hear more from this tennis pro!
Wikipedia writes, "Michael-Ray Pallades González is a professional tennis player from the Dominican Republic. He was a member of the Dominican Republic Davis Cup team. and represented his country at the Central American and Caribbean Games."
The PTR award announcement read, "As a junior, he was a two-time USTA National Champion and played for the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, and was ranked Top 10 in NCAA Division 1 Men's Tennis. He graduated with a BA with a double major in International Marketing and Spanish.
Pallares competed on the ITF Men's Circuit and ATP Challenger Tour for 10 years. While playing European League Club Tennis for teams in Italy, Germany, Austria and France, he compiled a 57-13 record. Pallares has served as Professional Tour Coach and/or hitting partner for several Top 10 ATP & WTA players, and served as Director of Tennis for the Panamanian Tennis Federation. "
QUESTIONS FOR MICHAEL-RAY PALLARES
TCB: Where were you born, Michael-Ray?
MRP: I was born in Englewood, NJ
TCB: Where do you currently live?
MRP: I live in Tampa, Florida.
TCB: How old were you when you started to play tennis and how did you get into it?
MRP: I started playing tennis when I was 3 years old. My father was a professional soccer player and he wanted me to participate in sports, so he put me in several different sports and activities as a child. He said that tennis always brought a smile to my face, so he kept me in tennis, and that has been my lifelong passion since.
TCB: Did you play high school/college tennis?
MRP: I played high school tennis at Leonia High School in Leonia, NJ, where our tennis team was the North Jersey Group 1 & 2 State Champions in my junior and senior seasons. I then went on to play college tennis at the University of Alabama where our team was ranked Top 10 in NCAA Division 1 tennis my senior season, and I was voted the Most Improved Player.
The team aspect of tennis has always inspired me to play my best tennis, have it be high school, college, European League, or Davis Cup ties. They have also given me my most memorable experiences in the sport.
Visiting the children at the Casa Amor y Restauración Orphanage in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
TCB: After your pro career, what made you decide to begin teaching tennis?
MRP: Growing up, I did not have a coach. My father (who was a soccer player and never played tennis) was my coach and together we learned the sport, through trial and error.
After many years of competing professionally, learning from knowledgeable tennis coaches and attaining the highest coaching certifications in the world from the ITF, ATP/WTA, PTR and USPTA, I committed myself to giving back to the sport and sharing my knowledge and experience with coaches and players, so that they can more easily achieve success and enjoyment of this great sport.
TCB: Where do you teach? Is there a club?
MRP: As the saying goes, “I am a man who wears many hats.” Currently, I am the Director of Coach Education for the Union of Professional Tennis (UPT), a coaches registry based in Alicante, Spain that teaches the “Spanish Method” of coaching, a methodology that has produced the most Top 100 ATP players in the past 30 years.
As an ITF Level 3 Expert coach for the International Tennis Federation, I am responsible for the undertaking the Development of the National Sports Structure (DNSS) project, creating an action plan to strengthen the tennis programs approved by the NOC, International Olympic Committee and Olympic Solidarity. I am the owner of Crown Elite Tennis Academy, based out of Tampa, FL which is a small scaled professional development program that individualizes and customizes training programs for the committed player. Furthermore, my passion, One Love Tennis is a non-profit organization designed to reach underprivileged and low-income youth through affordable tennis, education, and fitness. We design tennis programs and provide children's shelters and schools with tennis courts, appropriately sized nets, racquets and balls so that the children can play tennis all year long.
Michael-Ray training UPT coaches in El Paso, Texas
TCB: How is your coaching philosophy different from mainstream coaching?
MRP: My coaching philosophy is based on the following three principles: communication, adaptability, and task-orientation.
Identifying your students as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners, and communicating with them in terms they are comfortable with will increase their confidence and performance. Adapting your coaching individually with these learning styles, will prove to be beneficial and allow your students to access information quickly and effectively. Staying task-oriented will help embrace your player’s own style and personality, rather than conforming to conventional wisdom.
I feel that mainstream coaching can be quite autocratic, with coaches making decisions with little to no input from the player or players. The coach articulates a vision for what needs to be accomplished by the players, and the players are expected to perform. Autocratic coaching is win-focused and typically features inflexible training structures.
We as coaches must remember that we are coaching different players with distinct backgrounds at various stages in their life. Embracing the three principals of communication, adaptability, and task-orientation will promote the development and enjoyment of the sport.
TCB: When did you start the Crown Elite Tennis Academy and what’s your goal with it?
MRP: Crown Elite Tennis Academy was established in 2009 as a high-performance tennis academy based out of Tampa, FL. Throughout the years, it has evolved into a small-scale professional development program for the committed player in a personalized small-ratio setting to provide the best possible experience. The goal is to continue to individualize and customize training programs to enhance players’ strengths and lessen their weaknesses.
Michael-Ray at SOS Children's Villages in Lebanon
TCB: When did you start One Love Tennis and what do you want to achieve here?
MRP: One Love Tennis was founded in 2011 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to reach underprivileged and low-income youth through affordable tennis, education, and fitness. I have traveled all over the world, organizing Play-Day events designed to introduce kids to tennis providing them with the opportunity to continue to develop and enhance their skills.
The ultimate goal of One Love Tennis is to set-up tennis programs and provide the children's shelters and schools with tennis courts, appropriately sized nets, racquets, and balls so that the children can play tennis all year long.
TCB: As the 2019 PTR Humanitarian of the Year, you were honored for your many achievements and initiatives in international tennis. Where do you see yourself in 10-20 years?
MRP: Being selected as the 2019 PTR Humanitarian of the Year was one of the biggest honors of my tennis career. To be recognized amongst my peers and colleagues for my labor of love through my foundation One Love Tennis was an absolute privilege.
For the foreseeable future, I plan on continuing to promote and grow the game of tennis worldwide through my foundation, One Love Tennis and the UPT Coach Education platform.
TCB: What is your recipe for growing tennis in the United States?
MRP: The recipe for growing tennis in the United States is coach education. The difference between tennis in the United States and tennis in Europe, for example, is that in most European countries, tennis would be the second or third most popular sport, usually behind soccer. In the United States, however, there are so many sports to choose from, it’s vital for us as coaches to be able to not only promote the sport to attract players but also to retain them once they begin playing.
In order to be successful in this endeavor and grow the game of tennis in the United States, we as coaches must be well trained and educated on teaching in a fun and enjoyable manner to create a positive environment to encourage and motivate players effectively.
TCB: What is your tennis racquet of choice?
MRP: Yonex VCORE Pro 97 330
TCB: Have you ever played Pickleball? Do you like it? How about POP Tennis?
MRP: In October 2017 and December 2018, via my foundation One Love Tennis, I collaborated with occupational therapist Debbie Kolarik and recreational therapist Ron Tankel to organize an event and create a program for behavioral health clients at the New Frontiers tennis program at Truman Medical Center located in the Hospital Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.
During the winter months, Pickleball has been implemented in addition to tennis and this was my first experience with the sport. I very much enjoyed playing Pickleball and was thrilled to see the pleasure and satisfaction displayed by all involved. I have never played POP Tennis, but I have seen it and would definitely consider POP Tennis as another addition to this program.
TCB: Thank you, Michael-Ray.