The Reason Behind TLC’s Success

Posted on February 20th, 2017 by

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.


Happy 5th Anniversary directing operations, Mr. Lachman.  You Let Love Serve.  And you teach the rest of us to do the same.

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  1. Barbara Wilkinson says:

    Well said, Neal! I, too, have benefited from Davids generosity and skills. He is my go-to man when it comes to computer problems, snow shoveling, and even garage door problems.

    Thank you David for always being there for TLC, Neal, and me. You have raised the Assistant Director of Operations to a new level.

  2. Bev Lesiuk says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a dedicated, hard working, efficient and fun guy! TLC is so lucky to have David on staff. Can’t wait to see all of you this summer! Truly the highlight of our summer!!

  3. Sue Lachman says:

    Thank you Neal for the great tribute to David.
    The day this position was open…applied for … and accepted by David at TLC put smile on his face and ours.
    So very proud!!!!

  4. Kelly Stafford says:

    Being the recipient of David’s “fireman-like” skills TWICE in the last month, I must say this tribute is nothing short of absolute truth. David, you’re amazing, and a large part of that is not only your uncanny business sense and ability but your quiet, behind-the-scenes humility. In this world where bigger is better and louder is encouraged and me-me-me is all there is, your quiet way is SO refreshing and attractive. You’re yet another reason we LOVE TLC. Can’t wait to see you this summer!!

  5. Maggie says:

    Congratulations! Best of luck and wishing you must success for the next 5!


    Kudos to you, Neal, for recognizing and honoring David with such wonderful heartfelt words. He is a fantastic person and perfect for the job at TLC. I’m sure he will treasure what you have written forever.

  7. Michael Sigel says:

    David, your gratitude and love are felt far and wide! Thank you!

  8. Raman says:

    A wonderful tribute! I’ve known David for a while and you hit the nail right on the head. David is an awesome person.

  9. Jennifer Kirby says:

    That is a wonderful story. It gave me goosebumps! I love how things unfold the way they’re supposed to. Thanks for writing about this!

  10. Beverly Rost, Weyerhaeuser, WI says:

    Congratulations! What a great tribute! I don’t know you, but know your mom…she did my hair” at Seasonss of change” for quite a long time. (I miss her)….She talked about you and your sister,,Steph, with such love…and about being so proud of both your, accomplishments…..I know this is happy time for both your parents because you can spend a little time together. Keep on giving…..You are doing just great!

  11. Karen Mann says:

    What a blessing to have David, and for him to be recognized is equally a blessing! But that’s the way camp is…..