Tennis family's ties tighten as they travel
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Life on the professional tennis circuit for Brad Pearce leads from one city and country to another, as the LDS player constantly works toward winning a major tournament and garnering a top international ranking.
But Brad's tennis isn't so important that he lets it get in the way of his family. His wife, Cindi, and their two daughters, Jordan, 4, and Tara, 11/2, travel with him.To the foursome, home is where the heart is. They are on the road roughly 40 weeks a year while Dad Brad carves out a living with his racket on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.
For a family of four, life on the road is not easy, but the parents have deemed it important to be together whenever possible. They also realize the traveling lifestyle will not last forever. With few exceptions, the professional life expectancy of a touring player at the top level isn't long.
"Being together is something we think is essential," explained Brad. "The most important reason we're here is to have a family and be together."
Contrary to appearances, playing tennis for a living is not all glamor and glitz. It includes plenty of hard work and a lot of pressure, but it's also a career that has its share of excitement and satisfaction.
Brad feels his best playing is still ahead of him, even though he was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1990. That was his best finish, to date, at a Grand Slam event (Wimbledon and Australian, French and U.S. Opens). He has fared well in singles and doubles at other tour events in various parts of the world.
At age 26, Brad plans to play for a few more years at least and then take it from there. He will likely continue a career tied to tennis. His father, Wayne, coached tennis for many years at BYU, so Brad has been around the game all of his life. As a collegian, he played two years at UCLA.
"Tennis has done a lot for me," said Brad. "I think it's a great sport. Its been my life, and I would like to stay involved after leaving the tour."
He and Cindi both concede, however, that logging countless miles of travel "gets old." They get excited talking about being home together and cooking in their own kitchen and attending their home ward (Edgemont 13th, Provo Utah Edgemont North Stake) on a regular basis. They talk with anticipation about future family trips to national parks in Southern Utah, though their current lifestyle takes them throughout the United States, and from New York to London to Paris, throughout Europe and around the world - a frequent flyer's dream.
"The grass always looks greener on the other side," reflected Cindi, laughing. "Someday we'll probably be home wishing we could get out and travel. We're trying to appreciate what we have now and not moan and groan too much."
While Brad concentrates on honing his tennis skills to compete favorably with the best in the world, Cindi has assumed a dual role of mother and president of the tour's wives' association.
A couple of years ago, she was experiencing the rigors and challenges of accompanying her husband and noticed other wives struggling also. "It was hard," she recalled. "It was difficult to get to know anybody. As spouses of the players, you are on the road and have nothing in common besides tennis. You are lonely. Another player's wife came up and said, `Let's do something useful with our time.' "
The wives' association was born and has become an integral part of the tour, receiving budget money from the ATP. The association sends out a newsletter to about 80 women, helps arrange for baby-sitting during tournaments, promotes charitable functions and conducts social activities.
"We visit a lot of children's hospitals, getting Andre Agassi or other well-known players to sign shirts, which we take to the kids," said Cindi. "We do some social things, too, like going sightseeing and going to lunch. These activities help break barriers between cultures and women, promoting friendliness and providing a useful way to spend time."
Life on the go is something that has become second nature to the Pearce children, and the parents tell some humorous stories about their lifestyle through a child's eyes.
"We were reading to Jordan and Tara recently about when Nephi landed in the New World, and about how they were going to plant seeds and grow food and do this and that," Brad said. "Jordan responded, `Then are they going to check into the hotel?' "
Another time a woman watching a tournament asked the little girls where they lived. "In a hotel," was the response.
"The kids travel well; they're used to it," Cindi noted.
When at home in Provo between what are sometimes four- or five-week trips, the family relishes the opportunity to associate with friends and family.
"When we come home, I love going to our elders quorum, because I have a new appreciation for that," Brad said. "We don't regularly have those associations with people who have the same values and are like-minded. When we are home, I love to participate as much as I can. Someone will call now and then for a fireside or morningside. I love to go, because I don't get to contribute that much in a formal Church calling."
That aside, the Pearces have many opportunities through their associations to share gospel ideals through their actions and words.
"When we go into cities and towns all over the world, we make an effort to get to Church and to get involved with the missionaries," Brad recounted. "With the permission of their mission presidents, I invite missionaries to some of the matches. They often come out with their name tags, looking very different from everyone else. I think people notice that. Most everybody on the tour knows we're Mormons. In fact, my nickname is the `Stormin' Mormon.' I'm proud of that association."
Brad feels that gospel principles relate to more than just the family's lifestyle and interactions on the tour, but also directly affect his play.
"I think gospel principles relate to anything, whether you're a tennis player or whatever else you do. I try to focus on the fact the Lord is there when you do your part. When I pay the price in being prepared physically and mentally, I feel more comfortable calling upon the Lord's help."
His high point as a tennis player came in the summer of 1990 when he reached the quarterfinals and historic Centre Court at Wimbledon - called by writers and tennis aficionados the game's most sacred arena.
Brad played very well in losing to superstar Ivan Lendl in four hard-fought sets. The match was carried live via many television networks throughout the world, and a post-match TV interview saw Pearce tell the commentators he was grateful for the large payday because he and his wife planned on having a large family. He received favorable newspaper reviews of his play and on-court demeanor from throughout the world. The match had received extra attention because Lendl was on top of the tennis world, while Pearce - the "youngster from Provo, Utah" - was ranked 120th in the world and unseeded in the tournament.
For several days thereafter, he and Cindi were frequently stopped on the streets of London and congratulated on his play. They had the experience of being in the public eye amplified when, the next night, they went to a London play and deemed it inappropriate after it began. Many were mindful of his presence.
"We felt uncomfortable with the content of the play," Brad recalled. "The thought of getting up and walking out, tripping across people and all, made us uneasy. But we looked at each other and thought, `We really shouldn't be here,' so we got up and left."
Not particularly surprising for a couple used to standing up for their values in a quiet way.
"I made a commitment early in my career that when I had the opportunity and had the world's focus, I would use it in a manner that would draw attention to those values we stand for as Mormons and use it as a missionary tool," Brad said. "When Wimbledon came up in 1990, that was it. I'm confident many people made the association with the Church.
"I felt good about playing a good match, and especially about doing it with good sportsmanship. There have been times, especially early in my career, when my temper has gotten the best of me and I haven't been proud of my on-court behavior. I feel I've come a long way in that regard the past couple of years. If there ever was a time I felt I had a little extra spiritual help and received it, Wimbledon was it."