Vic Braden ’51

Vic died on October 6, 2014. He was 85 years old and arguably the most well-known graduate of Kalamazoo College. He matriculated to K from Monroe (Mich.) High School, where he had been a multi-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball, and tennis). He was the first high school tennis player to win the state singles championship three times. At K he earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology and played on the Hornet men’s tennis team. He served as team captain his senior year, the same year he took the MIAA singles championship. He also was MIAA doubles champion in 1949 and 1951. After graduation he was the assistant basketball coach at the University of Toledo, and he played on the professional tennis circuit. Vic moved to California and earned his master’s degree in educational psychology (California State University). He began study for his doctorate in psychology (USC) but discontinued that work in order to become the chief tennis professional at a tennis club. It was in the teaching of tennis that Vic achieved his international renown. In 1971 he started the Vic Braden Tennis College in Coto de Caza, Calif. That effort later expanded to include campuses in Florida and Utah and traveled throughout the United States, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and China. He taught thousands of players and lectured in all 50 states. His players included champions like Tracy Austin, and yet he seemed to have a special spot in his heart for the average weekend hacker. He combined humor and psychology to make every student as proficient as she or he could be. Vic hosted a tennis instructional show on public television in the early 1980s that was carried by 238 stations. He appeared on NBC, made instructional videos, and authored eight books. The New York Times obituary (“Vic Braden, Tennis’s Pied Piper, Dies at 85,” Douglas Martin) noted that “Mr. Braden’s forte was psychology, which he thought could nearly work miracles. He told Sports Illustrated that if he were given eight good 13-year-old players–‘I don’t mean great athletes,’ he specified–he could have all of them in the Wimbledon quarterfinals at 18. Such improbable success, he said, would involve learning to think differently. ‘The moment of enlightenment,’ he said, ‘is when a person’s dreams of possibilities become images of probabilities.’” In recognition of his lifetime achievements, Vic was presented an honorary degree from his alma mater in April of 2008. He is pictured (center, in the photo at left) at that event, held in Stetson Chapel, with the late Professor and Coach Emeritus George Acker (left) and Professor of Physical Education and Volleyball Coach Jeanne Hess.

One thought on “Vic Braden ’51

  1. jim

    Vic wrote on my 8×10 glossy picture of me swinging a racquet – ’ Fastest racquet in the town!!’ 9/7/1986. I grew up in Gibraltar Mi and straight to the OC in 65. I watched Vic teach, he expected 100% all the time. Happy he decided to go home and teach more wondering soles at ’K’. God bless, jim

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