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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

What’s The Score?

What’s the score?  We hear that phrase all the time on the court and in life.   It is the measure of success in the eyes of many in this world.  How many games did we win in a match, how many A’s did we get in school, how many sales did we rack up for the company, how many dollars did we add to the bottom line?

Today, we start Tennis & Life Camps’ 40th year.  What’s the score here?

It is what I saw out my window two nights ago.  My office looks over Court #1 of Gustavus’ indoor tennis center, where Tennis & Life Camps is taking place for the 40th summer starting today.

What I saw was the smiling, laughing faces of our 35 instructors playing GVS at the end of our third 13 hour training camp day in a row.

Today they will be on court with those same smiles, the same laughter, causing joy – and good tennis – to spread in this world.


Neal in the early '80s donning the TLC short shorts. Those were so cool back then!

Neal in the early ’80s donning the TLC short shorts. Those were so cool back then!



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Neal today, TLC Director


I was telling some of our younger staff (actually, they are all younger staff to me now…) at dinner Tuesday how I came to be here at TLC in the first place.  It wasn’t a reason.  It was a force of nature.  Steve Wilkinson cornered me (I don’t think that is too strong of a word) in 1981 in the Gustavus cafeteria and said he wanted me to work at TLC.  I told him no.  Steve always had a hearing problem when people gave him answers he didn’t want to hear.  So he asked me again two weeks later.  I told him no, I had a job back home.  He said, No, you have a job here.  He didn’t ask me two weeks later.  He told me.  Before I knew it I was running around in those early 80s skin tight yellow tennis shorts that looked like hot pants for men.  I told him I was only staying for one summer.  That was 35 years ago.

I do not want to be anywhere else on earth.


Tommy today, Assistant Director of Tennis

Tommy today, Assistant Director of Tennis



Tommy in 1996, TLC Camper of the Day

Tommy in 1996, TLC Camper of the Day


And neither do these instructors.

As I watched from above two night ago, they gathered around Tommy Valentini, who started as a camper himself, and now directs TLC’s tennis program. Even after 13 grueling hours on the court, they were looking and listening intently to every word he was saying. He was telling them how proud he is, how well they have done, what we can challenge ourselves to become, what is to come today, and what we will be envisioning in the future.


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David in 2006, Carl Walz Award winner



David today, Assistant Director of Operations (and fun)

David today, Assistant Director of Operations (and fun)


Meanwhile, David Lachman, who directs TLC operations, and who also started as a TLC camper, is working 26 hours every 24 hour day behind the scenes, doing the grueling work so we can all be ready.  He is one of the most mission driven human beings I have ever met.

There is only one reason I stay.  One reason they stay.  One reason our entire staff stays.  The only reason for everything.  Love.

Here we go for the 40th time.  The score?  40-Love.


The 40th Anniversary TLC Staff are ready to go!

The 40th Anniversary TLC Staff are ready to go!

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