Author serves up steps to smarter tennis | February 1, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Sports - February 1, 2012

Author serves up steps to smarter tennis

by Jane Knoerle

Marcus Cootsona of Menlo Park has been teaching tennis for the past 30 years, so he knows a thing or two about the game.

Now he has written, "Occam's Racquet: 12 Simple Steps to Smarter Tennis," (192 pages, $15.99).

The title "Occam's Racquet" refers to the medieval philosopher, William of Ockham, remembered for his Occam's Razor theory — "if a number of explanations describe a situation or solve a problem, the simplest explanation is the best."

The book takes tennis instruction, explains it, and simplifies it, giving players the tools to understand and improve their game.

He says simple doesn't mean "simple minded." His book is not "Tennis for Dummies." Each of the 12 chapters focuses on one area of the game, then breaks it down and shows players how to change their approach to learning and playing the game.

Dick Gould, director of tennis at Stanford, says about the book: "The premise is good, so simple and yet so true. It contains information relevant to players of all levels who want to take control of their physical and mental games."

Mr. Cootsona has been playing tennis since he was 4. His parents, Tom and Ruth Cootsona, are both tennis enthusiasts. The family owned and operated Top Spin Tennis shop on the Alameda in West Menlo Park from 1981 to 2004.

A graduate of Menlo School and San Jose State University, he competed in tournaments until college. He says, at that point, he realized instructing was more suited to his interest in the game than competing, and he began teaching.

For the past 20 years, he has taught on a private court in Atherton. His pupils range in age from 5 to 80.

Is there a right age for kids to start tennis? A lot depends on the child: his strength, attention span, and coordination. Age 5 is good, but 8 is not too late. He thinks it's a good idea to expose a child to as many different sports as possible.

Marcus and Melinda Cootsona's son, M.J., a freshman at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles, "is an excellent tennis player and a better golfer," says his dad.

While M.J. was growing up, father and son played golf every Sunday, often at Cinnabar Hills in the San Jose area.

Melinda Cootsona also excels at tennis, but is better known as a serious artist. She chose to stay home on golfing Sundays. "It gave her a chance to paint," says Marcus. Ms. Cootsona also teaches art in her studio in Menlo Park.

During the past 30 years, Marcus Cootsona has been a retailer, a produced playwright, and a screenwriter, as well as a tennis instructor. "I discovered it was on the court that I was happiest," he says.