Five years ago today Tennis & Life Camps was changed for good forever. What happened that day is, in my estimation, the most important reason we have filled camps faster than any time in history; why our retreat camps have expanded and grown and our message of inclusion of all has refined and set a path for how we will lead in the future; and why our scholarship program and social media reach has begun making an impact far beyond the walls of camp.
People ask me all the time what I think is the reason for this success. There are many: the vision set forth 40 years ago by Steve and Barb Wilkinson that is still relevant today; the leadership of our National Advisory Board; the unflagging support of Gustavus; and the campers/donors who have given their time and money to reach far beyond what we could ever do alone, both by spreading the mission and supporting it financially.
But behind all these is the tireless, selfless work of one person. David Lachman. Tennis & Life Camps’ Assistant Director of Operations. The day he arrived is the day TLC began to become what we are today. He is loved by staff, campers, other tennis organizations, and Gustavus employees. He is an ambassador of good will. He is Mr. Organization.
My daughter, when she was little and I commented on her beautiful dress and asked where she got it, said, “Mom.” Then she turned to whoever else was in the room and said, “If it were left to Dad, I’d be wearing a paper bag or a cardboard box.”
The truth is, if it were left to me, TLC would be wearing a paper bag or cardboard box. David Lachman prevents this from happening at every turn. He puts out fires I accidentally set. He is Radar O’Reilly anticipating needs so when I – or any staff member – say “David, could you figure out a way to do this?”, before the sentence is finished, David says, “It’s already done.”
He understands business and he understands tennis as a first-rate instructor. And he does both with a heart as deep and wide as the ocean. Because, like any mission-driven person, he puts people first. And the mission thrives.
One story says it all to me. When David was a first year instructor (he had been a camper for years, then went to St. Norbert’s College and became an instructor at TLC in the summers, got his degree in international business and set off into the corporate world until he returned five years ago when his current job was created by TLC at Gustavus), we had just lost two of our most selfless instructors TLC has ever known. I was lamenting this the first day of training camp, because they had set the bar for serving others that I feared would never be met again. We needed that leadership. But that leadership just doesn’t come along often.
On the first day of training camp that summer, I wondered aloud to myself: “Who is possibly going to take their place?”
I looked up. The instructors were all heading back to the bleachers to get their next instruction on how to teach campers. But one was missing. I looked through the windscreen, and there on court 7 was David Lachman, a first year instructor, not a veteran, on the first day of training camp, picking up the extra balls others had missed.
I said aloud to myself, “We are going to be just fine. We have found our next leader.” And today, on the 5th Anniversary of David returning to TLC to take over operations, I still feel the same. Except even more.
So when you wonder about TLC’s success? Wonder no more.