We are excited to bring you inspiring interviews with some of our key family members! To kick off our interview series, we’re talking to the patriarch of it all, Co-founder Charlie VanDercook.
On any given day during the summers, Charlie can be seen playing tennis with a 7 year old, jumping into a 4 v 4 soccer game, challenging a 14 year old to a push up competition, or simply introducing himself to kids at all of our locations. What is not seen by everyone, is that Charlie has already paddle-boarded for an hour before camp and will go for a mountain bike ride after all the kids go home. His love for sports and physical activities is contagious but even more remarkable is his positive outlook and encouragement to the children.
Youth athletics brings in adults from a variety of backgrounds. From former athletes to educators, you’ll find a winning array of stories when you speak to coaches, staff members, directors and anyone else who has anything to do with helping young people develop their athletic talents. With that in mind, we wanted to know a little bit about Charlie’s background and how he ended up with Future Stars.
On his own background in sports, Charlie said, “I grew up playing all kinds of sports as a kid.” After trying a lot of different sports, he eventually focused on tennis. He played one year of college tennis and spent one season on the 1976 WATCH circuit.
When asked what drew him back to youth sports as an adult, Charlie told us, “I grew up playing tennis and became a tennis instructor. Teaching and coaching kids was a big part of my day and I gravitated to the students.” He went on to add, “I guess I’ve always been a kid myself and love playing games, and I brought that love of the game (tennis) to my junior students in the way of games.”
Charlie’s career didn’t stop at being an instructor – obviously. “I was Director of Tennis at a club in Lake Placid, New York.” While there, he directed the junior tennis camp, a junior program, and organized tennis tournaments. Following this, he was hired as Director of Tennis at the Banksville Racquet Club in Banksville, New York. “The biggest part of our business and our emphasis was on the junior program, where there were 350 participants. I was good at relating to kids, and they liked being with me. I made tennis fun and had aptitude as a teacher.” Between his own athletic background, instructing and directing, Charlie was well-versed in youth sports when he co-founded Future Stars!
Working in youth sports takes a certain love of the game. It also requires adults to consider what they think children can learn from athletics. We asked Charlie, what he thinks children can get out of youth sports? He said, “Children learn life lessons and most everything about life through playing sports. The fun of striving and competing, and loving the process.” Our Co-founder of Future Stars knows kids can also take away, “The satisfaction of trying your best, whether you win or lose. Learning it takes hard work and tons of practice to achieve goals. They learn to respect the game, the coach, their teammates and opponents.”
The children aren’t the only ones who are reaping the benefits out of sports, and out of Future Stars. Charlie notes, “The biggest reward that I’ve received in my life is that after running Future Stars for 36 years is that, I’ve come into the second generation of campers. Parents that attended are now sending their kids to the camp, because they love Future Stars and they fondly remember their experiences.” And incredibly, Charlie not only remembers these campers’ names after all of these years, but he can tell stories about them from 30 years ago, both on and off the tennis court.
What he’s found particular gratifying is, “The kids I coached come to see me after 20 years, and show me pictures of their kids – relating their stories and giving me credit for shaping their success.” From his early days as a tennis player to inspiring generations of children, Charlie VanDercook has dedicated his personal and professional life to the game!
Image Credit: Charlie VanDercook