Adam Baranowski chats about tennis, art and the balance and harmony of both
ADAM BARANOWSKI HAS been head tennis pro at the London Hunt and Country Club since 2014, two years after he began working there. Born in Poland, he came to Canada in 1987. It was the final step in a complex plan his parents devised to leave their then-communist homeland. When he was nine, he left with his father for Italy, unaware they were going to stay there, separated from his mother and sister for the next two years.
They spent more than a year in an Italian immigration camp until their Canadian immigration was approved. Six months later, his mother and sister joined them in Toronto. Through it all, Baranowski played and excelled at tennis. He attended Texas Tech on a tennis scholarship, studying fine arts and graphic design. For a year before college, he travelled with Hall of Famer Boris Becker, as his hitting partner.
He is married to real estate salesperson Aga Matysiewicz; together, they have six daughters. At 44, Baranowski is ranked number two in Canada in his singles age category. When he was playing singles in the 35-and-up category, he reached number one in Canada and number 10 in the world.
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Let’s start with something simple: Just what does a tennis pro do?
There’s a variety of duties: I assist with various administrative duties and lessons. I teach adult and junior lessons and promote and organize junior and adult programs, events and camps. When not on court, I may be stringing racquets or attending and participating in the club’s social and special events.
You became head pro after a couple of years. How is that different?
As you would expect, the head pro has more responsibilities overall. I create and keep track of the tennis budget each season. I run our successful pro shop, which includes ordering and tracking inventory. Prior to each season, I organize programs and events for kids and adults and create the calendar of all events. And I hire competent teaching staff to ensure those programs run smoothly.
I keep track of all tennis maintenance hours on a biweekly basis, making sure our 10 courts and surrounding area are in tip-top shape. I work with members on a daily basis, running doubles leagues and teaching in groups or one-on-one. I’ve become an excellent psychotherapist. Also, a firefighter to put the fires down before they escalate. And I attend monthly tennis committee meetings.
We’ve read a lot about tennis during the pandemic, linked with golf as a relatively safe sport. How has your job changed in the Covid age?
It has changed dramatically since I am not on court currently due to lockdown. It has been challenging, but after a while you kind of get used to it. You find a way to adapt. Wearing a mask indoors has become the new normal, I guess. Being creative to teach and engage members via social media has become more and more normal.
During the outdoor season, you’re basically on or near the court all day, every day. What about winter? Do you get away from tennis?
During the winter, I prep for the next season already. I schedule meetings with the brands I carry in the pro shop and put together our orders for the coming year. You have to know in a way what members would wear and would use following season. Once the merchandise starts coming in at the beginning of the year, we take them to a printing shop to be logoed and labelled. Of course, nothing is as planned. There are items that are shipped with scuff marks or have some imperfections, so you have to send them back and deal with reps, most of whom are very understanding. Once the racquets come in, I string them for members when they want to demo them in the season.
You studied art at college. When did you start showing and selling art on your website?
I really got more serious about my crafts in 2016. I’ve always wanted to do something with it but lacked the courage to do so. Looking for ways to showcase and sell my artwork was something that intrigued me. Having my own website felt like I had my online portfolio, showing all the work I have done with various media and techniques.
Is tennis the inspiration for your art?
Tennis has been a part of me since I can remember. I wanted to transfer tennis onto a canvas or something more digital. It is a very elegant game but still can be very physical in nature. Bringing simplicity through abstract shapes, paint or texture has in a way exposed my love for the game. Tennis and art have so much in common. Both can be about creating balance and harmony.
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More recently, you’ve added t-shirt designs. How did that happen?
My wife encouraged me to open an e-commerce shop, an on-demand platform with no overhead. What a great idea and concept, I thought. It went live early this year and sales have been growing steadily. One of my youngest daughters, Emma, showed an interest as well. She created a collection of her own, called Vintage Crews.
Are there any good tennis movies?
Borg vs. McEnroe is a classic! The Yin and Yang of tennis. I recommend it. Interview by Christopher Clark