We are thrilled to have Hall of Fame Tennis Coach Rick Macci on the podcast! Rick was the legendary coach of Serena, Venus, and other #1 ranked players in the world and was featured in the movie King Richard! He tells us the one thing to do before hitting the ball. Can you guess what it is? He talks specifically about adult recreational tennis players.

In addition, we talked to Rick about what it was like to meet and train Venus Williams and Serena Williams as children.

If you’re an avid tennis fan or a rec player looking to improve your game, this episode, brimming with profound insights from a tennis legend, is a must-listen.

Rick Macci has trained and worked with Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati, and many more! Five of his players have reached number one in the world and he has coached eight Grand Slam Champions. His junior players have won 322 USTA National Championships and currently over 60 WTA and ATP players work with Rick regularly.

Rick was also a coach to another guest we had on the podcast (Brian Rosenthal). Listen to Brian’s episodes here:

Contact Rick

You can contact Rick at info@rickmacci.com or learn more about programs on his website here.

Here’s a complete transcript with Rick:

Carolyn Roach: 0:05
Hi, this is Carolyn, and I’m here with Erin and we’re honored to have on the podcast Hall of Fame tennis coach Rick Macci. He has trained and worked with Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati and many more. So, rick, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Rick Macci: 0:23
No, I just I just jumped off the court. I’m ready to go.

Carolyn Roach: 0:28
We’re going to have a lot of fun Great, okay. So, Rick, we know you’ve coached the best players in the world five that have reached number one and multiple Grand Slam champions but can you give regular adult recreational players like Erin and me a few pieces of tennis advice?

Rick Macci: 0:44
Yeah, listen, you know I’m glad you asked me that question because people ask me all the time like who’s my favorite student of all time? And they think I might be one of the people that you just mentioned, but it’s really who’s on the other side of the net that hour, that minute, that second, and that’s kind of been the staple of how I kind of do things. So, to answer your question, I could help you guys out so much. I might have to do reconstructive surgery, I might have to reverse engineer some things, but no, I love helping anybody, anytime, anywhere, and I work with hundreds of adults. I don’t just work with like I work with little kids, the best kids in the country, people on the pro tour and adults. So, but the best advice would be enjoy what you’re doing, don’t make it bigger than what it is, and every time before you hit the ball, smile. It’s a game changer because your nervous system will be totally different. Trust me, it changes everything because the club player has a tendency to be more uptight and the best way to relax is to smile. Yeah, listen, you want to practice and get out of your comfort zone to get in the end zone. You know, probably some people stand in the same place for 10 years on their serve or they return from the same place for 10 years, or they stand in the same place in doubles. You got to mix it up. The best of the best of all the rest, they experiment. You have no idea that people on the tour, how they’re always tweaking, you know, even if they’re one in the world, like joke of it. I got to get better. They’re always adjusting. Where the club player they don’t like, you know to change, or maybe they don’t have the time to practice. But do things differently, because if you don’t try you’re never going to know what you’re capable of doing. That’s like the best advice I can give anybody, because everybody sticks with the same thing and you gotta rattle the cage a little bit.

Erin Conigliaro: 2:37
Yeah, so my background is I didn’t start. I had never touched a racket till I was 40 years old. I know I only look like I’m 40 now, but I’m 51.

Carolyn Roach: 2:45
That’s right, aaron, that’s right.

Erin Conigliaro: 2:47
But I’m good at tennis because I was athletic, but my strokes are terrible. My serve is abysmal but I went from a two-five beginner to four-ro. Carolyn and I both got bumped. We both got bumped the year we were starting the COVID year to four-ro, but strictly based on athleticism and Carolyn’s a great athlete. But so are you saying that you could actually like fix my strokes and I could be better than a four-ro?

Rick Macci: 3:16
Listen, you have no idea. It’s like that’s kind of what I do, different in anybody in the world. I can kind of correct the problem. I got so many tricks in the bag and I can kind of expedite the learning curve. So the technical part is the easiest, even though you started later, where a lot of people come with bad habits. I can change the muscle memory, reprogram the reflexes, and I love challenges. So both of you would probably be a challenge, but I liked that part of it and people feel things haven’t felt in the longest period of time. But to back up the truck a little bit, because you’re an athlete, you can run, you can get set, you’re competitive, that’s one of the things I look for when I evaluate young kids if they have that in their pocket and that’s why a lot of kids, they might have a better forehand, a better backhand, a better serve and they’re going. Rick, how’d I lose to that guy 6262? Because the other person’s there and more competitive and you’re on balance. So but you got the internal stuff or the genetic stuff. You just need to clean your act up a little bit.

Erin Conigliaro: 4:22
Yeah, what I’m hearing is I’m just like Serena and Venus because, kidding, not in a million years. But I did listen to another podcast that you were on, that you talked about when you went to see them and really it was that fight that once you said competition, right, then they were in it, but the stroke production needed work. But you saw that fire in them. Can you tell us about that a little bit?

Rick Macci: 4:45
Yeah, first off, you could imagine how people wanted to know why I took a chance. A lot of people saw the movie. I didn’t just say I like you or I believe in you. When you put up your own money and you’re taking a big chance, I could have been wrong, they could have got hurt. I just saw something and remember I had Jennifer Capriotti. She’s the most dominant junior player ever. Listen to this. At 12 years old she won the national 18 hard court and clay court as a 12 year old. That never will happen again and that’s a record from 1988 that still stands today. So my blueprint for greatness was probably better than A-bye in the world, just from Jennifer. And then she was top 10 in the world at 14. So when I went out to Compton and I have no idea why I want, richard convinced me I thought what am I doing here? Cause there was arms and legs and hair and beads were flying off their head and Serena was like looking at the birds and waving at them and you know, venus was kind of locked in, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it on the outside and it’s a great lesson for any coach you don’t, or parent you don’t, or anybody. You don’t judge a book by the cover, the book. The cover could be amazing and the book bad, so I didn’t see it. They were all over the place technically, but I saw they could run and they were kind of quick. But I see that movie all the time with kids. Then when I said that’s play competitive points and it was me and Serena, because she was like a little prankster Venus was almost 5, 9. Okay, when I said that’s play competitive points, the whole landscape changed. I never saw two little girls Try so hard. Venus’s nose was that floor off the ground trying to get a ball. She was 5 9 and Serena. Both of them had like a rage. There was something. When I said compete and we’re gonna keep score, it was like almost scary Maybe not to me. I just said this is crazy. You know what I was seeing the burning desire. And when I saw that, listen, I have a lot of kids that try hard, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna be number one in the world, that didn’t even you’re gonna be a pro. But I saw they were bulletproof. What I met by that? They would handle pressure better because they were all about the competition. And right then in there I’m looking at these two little pipsqueaks, okay, and I’m going six feet, 160, 510, 145. I go. Richard, come here. This is after we competed. I mean they were popping the popcorn extra bet better, their feet were amazing. The preparation got better. It was still a train wreck, semi train wreck. It got better, but it wasn’t like fillet mignon, it wasn’t like wow. And I told Richard and this is in the movie I said, let me tell you something. You got the next female, michael Jordan on your hand, and he puts his arm around me, goes. No, brother man. I got the next two and then listen to this. Venus goes, daddy, and they were hugging and kissing, just like you saw in a movie, a close-knit family like no other. Vina and I go to the bathroom. So Venus, it goes. Yes, v. Venus goes out the gate, walks on her hands for five feet I’m going listen. Or then does backward cart wheels because I looked at her body and I thought she should be running track or gymnastics and I’m sitting there going whoa, Whoa, whoa. Now, this was 1991 and if you were big and strong, you weren’t nimble. I thought not only to these two little kids. In my opinion, be number one in the world. With the right help and the right financial backing, they could transcend the sport. Because you didn’t have that type an athlete back then. Now, everybody’s kind of like that. So three months later we turned, teamed up. What was gonna happen next was a mystery, but at the end of the day we changed history. That’s so cool.

Erin Conigliaro: 8:44
So what do you do? So do you have an academy, do you? It sounds like you train. I know you train world-class athletes and I know you’re training kids. You know Kind of coming up through juniors and that you know could easily potentially be number one, you know, in the future. But you also train adults. Is that correct?

Rick Macci: 9:02
Well, yeah, I have an academy. It’s Rick Macy tennis center here in Boca Raton. I’ve done this since 1985, other than IMG, which was originally voluntary. I’m like the last of the Mohicans. I’m still standing. There’s no billion dollar company behind me. You know amazing business. We don’t do a glorified, boring school. I’d still teach 50 hours a week, very hands-on, a lot of staff and with me like eight to ten years, which is unheard of. You know what I mean. And we do things different, you know, and we do. It’s more hands-on, you know. It’s more boutique, even though it’s a bigger boutique. But no, we do adult private lessons. People come in from all around the world and they’re blown away. And I do a lot of video analysis with people. But I teach little kids four years old, I teach seven year olds. I put Humpty Dumpty together and they have a foundation like no other. They can learn more in one hour and they put it on their phone. They have a blueprint for the future. It’s amazing. And then I have the best, some of the best kids in the world that obviously want to be pro Probably over 30 girls I work with on the tour and their coach. You know I coached the coach who’s with them all the time. So just everybody, but a lot of adults. I love helping the adults. You know why? Because they learn more than anybody, because they’ve been locked in to a muscle memory. For so long They’ve been doing the same thing. I changed the elbow and they’re gone. Oh my God. They freak me out. Or I change something easy and they experience it. And it’s all about feeling. Once you feel it, then you can deal it. You know what I mean. So I love helping adults. I do that all the time. I hit hundreds and hundreds a year. They come, they email me, they wanna come in, whether it’s for a day or a couple of days. I do privates with them. They wanna bring their friends. We could put something together. I just need to know a couple of months in advance. It’s like I said I teach seven days a week. I get up at three o’clock. I open up the park every morning at five o’clock. At 68 years old, I’m a park ranger I’ve just put that on my resume, like five years ago, and I start teaching at five or six o’clock with the kids before school. But no, I love helping adults because they’re so appreciative, because they’ve been stuck, and it’s not just like vanilla. I might give some vanilla, but it has the best sprinkles in the world. So it’s a different vanilla that I’ll do for them.

Erin Conigliaro: 11:30
So when Caroline can travel to Florida, we’ll come see you. That’s right, that’s right 15 minutes you’ll go.

Rick Macci: 11:36
Oh my God, okay.

Erin Conigliaro: 11:37
I love it. I can just tell you what’s going on.

Rick Macci: 11:39
So then you’ll have, you’ll know what to practice on.

Carolyn Roach: 11:42
Oh, that would be great, I need that. I definitely need that. So people would just email you and we can put your email in the show notes a couple months in advance, and then you would get back to them to let them know how to do this.

Rick Macci: 11:54
My email. It’s info at rickmacycom. I get back to her by within 24 hours. People text me Like people call me all the time like even for the business, because my number’s out there it’s very different, and they go wait a minute, is this Rick Macy? Then they hear my voice. They go it is you know. Or I go bang like the movie. So no, it’s so hands on and when they talk to me they can get the questions answered, whether it be about their child or what they’re looking for, right away. And, more importantly, they don’t really get that from someone whose name’s on the door anywhere in the world. But I do it not because I have to, I do it because I want to and that’s kind of been how I’ve been put together my whole life. You know, very hands on, genuine people, person, and it doesn’t matter what they’re calling about, it’s not the venuses of the world or Sherpa, that’s the window dressing. You know I want them to come and have the best experience. And what’s unique about what we do? The methodology, like the teaching methodology, my partner, dr Brian Gordon. He has PhD in biomechanics. We put this stuff together 15 years ago, cutting edge, all backed up by science, and then I can explain it and throw in the one-liners and connect the dots and explain it very different and a lot of the staff’s been with me like eight to 10 years and they know it inside out. So that’s why they’re super busy with privates, especially with young kids, because they put the technical base. They look like little superstars and they’re seven years old. It’s amazing. No bad habits, it’s easier with a kid. It’s like a piece of clay. Like I have the number one girl in Europe who’s 12, unreal athlete. She’s like a little butterfly with an attitude. You know what I mean, but she’s like a piece of clay. Her name’s Sophia Balinsky and I really believe I can make this girl number one in the world. It’s all about technique, but I’m putting on a world-class athlete. I got the family out of Ukraine. I’m not only like changing her stroke, I’ve changed her whole life and her family. That’s a whole nother podcast. But that’s part of what I do. But I do it for guys like you and I love it just the same.

Carolyn Roach: 14:10
So, rick, can you take people like us and turn us into Grand Slam champions? Old, older women with children I’m kidding, I can have you watch films from here I can get you a ticket.

Rick Macci: 14:22
I don’t know about playing, but we know, we’re just kidding, we’re just kidding. When people watch the pros, I think the number one thing they should watch is their feet, how they keep popping the popcorn extra butter their feet, you know what I’m saying, cause the strokes are gonna be hard to imitate, cause you’re kinda locked in with the muscle memory. Unless you come see me, I can definitely change a lot of stuff. But the footwork, you know what I mean. Just stay alive on your feet and that’s why, if you’ve played other sports, you kinda have that baked in extra crispy already.

Carolyn Roach: 14:57
Thanks very much to Rick for coming on the podcast. Aaron is correct that I get really competitive out on the tennis court, but I’m also not very good, which isn’t a great combination. But luckily Rick is back for another episode where he will discuss mental tips for adult recreational players and the best advice he’s ever given and received. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the court soon.

We really enjoyed talking to Hall of Fame Tennis Coach Rick Macci and learning one thing to do before hitting the ball!).