Pride of Pine Hills transforms lives through tennis

In 2018, Tony “Baba Tony” David became smitten with the game of tennis, seemingly out of nowhere.

The then sixty-six, 66, year old Florida transplant found a new love that led him to feverishly search for and watch endless videos on the non-traditional sport. A sport David had not been exposed to at any point during his life time.

“I suffered a heart attack November of 2018 and while recovering from that, I watched tennis on YouTube,” said David, a Haitian-American from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York.

“My physician wanted to put a pacemaker in my heart, but I didn’t want one or get one. Till this day he’s still puzzled, wondering how is it that I’m still going.”

A major motivation that keeps Babe Tony going is his love for kids.

Tony “Baba Tony” David, the Pride of Pine Hills, teaches tennis to area youth while living his best “second life.” (Submitted photo)

For close to five years, the Professional Tennis Registry Level 1 Certified tennis coach has immersed himself and been a diligent student of the game of tennis. His love affair with tennis has benefitted Orlando’s Pine Hills Neighborhood, marrying David’s passion for working with youth, being a positive contributor to society, and advocate of healthy and holistic living.

“We used to play handball back in Brooklyn so I figured tennis couldn’t be that difficult to learn,” said David, who was encouraged by his son to pursue his passions.

On Saturdays and Sundays, David provides introductory tennis lessons, for free, to a modest group of youth ranging in age from 7 to 17 years old.

“In my opinion, Baba Tony is a AWESOME,” said Atheka Graham.

“He is skilled, patient, flexible and open-minded. I asked my daughter, Ondiua, for her opinion. She said that “Baba Tony makes tennis fun and exciting.”

USTA / Professional Tennis Registry Level 1 Certified tennis coach, Tony David, defies odds by overcoming a heart attack and thriving as a community leader in Orlando’s Pine Hills Neighborhood. (Submitted photo.)

Graham’s daughter attends Lake Highland Preparatory School and briefly took tennis lessons after school.

“Before tennis, she was taking dance classes. She did not enjoy this nearly as much as the lessons she has with Baba Tony. As a child, it is important that she enjoys herself while she is learning and gaining skills,” said Graham.

A highly respected, well known and vocal advocate that supports the Pine Hills’ Rosemont Neighborhood Center, David constantly reminds city officials that the children of the often negatively stereotyped neighborhood deserve access to opportunities.

“He shows our children that people are willing to stand up for them and make sure that they to have those opportunities,” said Graham.

Once a week, David works under the guidance of Scott Thornton, Center Manager and Director of Tennis at the Orlando Tennis Center, supporting a program for students of Orange County Public Schools’ Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) Middle School.

“I met the Scott and he saw that I was serious and wanted to learn,” David said, speaking on his first interactions reaching out to leaders in Orlando’s tennis community.

“He would invite me to different events hosted by USTA Florida and at the the Orlando Tennis Center and USTA National Campus in Lake Nona. That’s when the ball really got rolling.”

Driven to seek personal growth, 55% of Americans age 45 and older are actively learning new things, according to a 2022 AARP study on lifelong learning. While 42% of adults 45 and older identify as a “lifelong learner” many more say they intend to engage in learning as they age, the study found.

David, who attended Lewis College, Santa Fe Community College, and the University of Florida (where he earned a degree in French), personifies being a “lifelong learner” as witnessed by his achievements in tennis and coaching over the past few years.

“I enjoy the game of tennis,” said David.

Orlando youth learn the sport for a lifetime, tennis, courtesy of Tony “Baba Tony” David. (Submitted photo)

There are over 39,070 tennis coaches currently employed in the United States.

36.6% of all tennis coaches are women, while 63.4% are men. The average age of an employed tennis coach is 35 years old, according to Zippia.

“It’s a grueling, young man’s game but I’m having fun. I have a second life,” said David.

Using a database of 30 million profiles, Zippia estimates demographics and statistics for tennis instructors in the United State, finding the most common ethnicity among tennis instructors are White, which makes up 66.9% of all tennis instructors.

Comparatively, there are 13.1% of the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity and 8.8% of the Black or African American ethnicity.

Aware of such statistics and how valuable Baba Tony is to the growth and development of tennis in Pine Hills and Greater Orlando, Graham offered sentiments shared by many throughout Central Florida.

“We are very grateful for the work he has done with Ondiua and in the community,” said Graham.


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