People travel to Curacao, from all over the world, to stay at the renowned Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. The popularity of Santa Barbara is, in large part, due to the incredible team of professionals that assist guests in everything from scuba diving to relaxing at the spa. Families and couples who return year after year get to know the faces that make up the resort, and today we are excited to introduce you to one of our newest faces! Meet Jon Kooy, the PBI Tennis Director at Santa Barbara.
Q & A With Jon Kooy, Tennis Director at Santa Barbara
We asked Jon a few questions to get to know him better, and now you can too!
Jon, how is it that you came to be the Tennis Pro at Santa Barbara?
“In October 2017 I joined Peter Burwash International, the world’s top tennis management company. My first assignment was to be the Director of Tennis at Caneel Bay in St. John, US Virgin Islands. Before I was able to leave for Caneel Bay, Hurricane Irma struck and devastated the entire area including Caneel Bay Resort. I was fortunate to elude the disaster but felt so sympathetic for all of the families and businesses affected in the area. So, change of plans, my first assignment was the position of Head Pro at the amazing Carmel Valley Ranch in California. I was privileged to teach alongside Director Chris Myrold and the founder and Hall of Fame Coach Peter Burwash himself! What an education for my first role in PBI. The opportunity came up for the Director of Tennis position at the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort as the previous pro was relocating back to Europe. I applied for the position, and the next thing you know, my wife Maren and I are on a plane to Curacao!”
What is your background, where are you from and how did you get your tennis start?
“I grew up in Canada on the west coast in British Columbia near Vancouver. I have played tennis since I was a child, but was also involved in other sports and activities. My main sports became football, soccer, and basketball. I am also a drummer and enjoy creating and playing music. It wasn’t until after competing in those team sports that I began competing in tennis. I reached an ITF top 5 ranking in Men’s singles over 35 in Canada. I still enjoy playing socially and competing when I am not teaching.”
What do you enjoy most about tennis?
“Tennis is a lifetime sport. It is never too late to learn and improve. It requires more than just strength and speed to excel. It is a four-legged table that combines physical ability, mental strength, sound technique and wise tactics. Tennis has many enjoyment factors: competition, social interaction, fitness. Tennis is a sport that appeals to a large demographic. I enjoy competing in tournaments as well as social league play. I am also a big fan of the professional tour and cheering on my Canadian players in the big tournaments.”
What do you enjoy most about instructing tennis?
“I love seeing someone get really hooked on tennis. Whether it is a young child learning to rally over the net 10 times, or a 40-something 3.5 level player trying to win their first tournament, it is really rewarding to see them improving and loving the process. There are so many elements to tennis that you’ll never run out of areas to improve.”
What are the unique features to the tennis courts and tennis program at Santa Barbara?
“The tennis courts at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort feature 4 Hydro-Grid clay courts that are lit for evening play. Hydro-Grid uses an underground, automated watering system that keeps the courts in ideal playing condition. Clay courts are cooler and much easier on the joints since it’s a soft surface. With the windy conditions and clay courts, Santa Barbara has the ideal training conditions for developing tough tournament players.”
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What do students gain from working one-on-one with you? What skills do many of your students walk away with?
“Recently I asked some of my regular students back in Canada to provide some feedback on their lessons with me. Their responses were really interesting. One that really sticks out was from a student who was about 18 years old, and he had been taking lessons with me from the age of 13. He spoke about how certain lessons on the tennis court have also helped him in real life. The concepts of staying in the moment and not dwelling on the past or what may or may not happen in the future were valuable lessons not only on the tennis court. From a strictly tennis perspective, I enjoy teaching using the PBI concepts which focus on the individual, not a teaching system. For over 40 years PBI has used these simple, yet extremely effective teaching concepts. I like my students to have a scope of the entire game, including tactics from early on. This often helps answer the question of “why” when explaining certain techniques. My students will walk away with an understanding of the game of tennis and the skills to compete.”
Which island activities have you been enjoying the most, during your free time?
“I enjoy exploring new beaches, hiking, and swimming. BBQ at the beach is hard to beat. We also enjoy listening to live music and experimenting with different restaurants. At Santa Barbara Resort, there are weekly beach BBQs and often live music at Medi restaurant.”
If your friends or family came to visit you, where would you take them on the island, which foods would you introduce them to, and what activities would you do together?
“First stop is a tour of the tennis courts and the beach at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort! There is a lovely hike on-site which gives amazing views of Spanish Waters and the surrounding area. There are also some amazing beaches on the west side of the island. Grote Knip, Cas Abou are two of our favourites so far. I would arrange a trip to Klein Curacao and visit Punda, Otrabanda, and Petermai, which really show the European influence in the architecture and colourful buildings as well as some live music at Miles (a jazz café). The foodie experience would include a sampling of the local food trucks, Ginger restaurant and of course Medi and Shore at Santa Barbara Resort!”
Thank you, Jon, for sharing so much about yourself with us! It has been a pleasure getting to know you better, and you’re an excellent addition to the ever-growing Santa Barbara family. We’ve no doubt you will continue to inspire, teach, and bring joy to all the guests who take advantage of the tennis program.