Chuck Sanchelli has been a tennis player, coach and advocate all his life.
This fall he will go back to where it all started as his high school, Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, Ind., has constructed an eight-court tennis facility and will name court number one after him.
Sanchelli is currently the Director of Tennis for Fort Bend Tennis Services in Sugar Land, but when Sanchelli played at Central Catholic the school did not have its own tennis courts, and he was one of the few high school players in any sport who was his own coach.
“Nobody really played high school tennis in the late 1960s,” he said. “My sister and I had to drive from Lafayette to Indianapolis every week to practice. About a month ago, the school called me and said a donor had provided funds for eight tennis courts and they wanted to name court one after me. That was a shock to me. I feel very proud and very humble.”
Sanchelli went on to play at Purdue University and after graduating in 1973, he played on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Satellite Tour. The Satellite Tour is for younger players with the best chance of moving onto the regular tour.
“I played the Satellite Tour but just couldn’t move up. I played in some tournaments with Jimmy Connors, but he was the kid that was always winning everything,” Sanchelli said.
He then joined the French Lick, Indiana Sheraton Resort as its first tennis pro.
“The resort had the best basketball court in the area and it was next to the tennis courts. This high school kid named Larry would show up almost every day to shoot baskets. He seemed to be pretty good, but we were more interested in playing tennis. I hear basketball worked out well for Larry Bird,” Sanchelli said.
Sanchelli is a baseline player.
“I will grind it out with you from the baseline. I will rally until I wear you down,” Sanchelli said. “I will make you run a lot.”
In the mid-1970s, Sanchelli thought Texas had some growth opportunities.
“I moved to Texas and just started applying for jobs. I got hired at John Newcombe’s Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels,” Sanchelli said. “After a few years, I was assigned to the Quail Valley Tennis Club.”
Sanchelli is now the Director of Tennis for Fort Bend Tennis Services, which is a group of tennis professionals who provide tennis lessons for kids starting at four years old and up to adults. The group uses school and park courts in the Sugar Land and Missouri City area and is available the whole year.
“We welcome adults at any level. We have a lot of adults who played 20 years ago and now that the kids are gone, they have time to play tennis again,” Sanchelli said. “We have about 400 students and six pros. We have classes that are once a week and some that are twice a week. In the summer we have a camp for kids. We will provide whatever level of instruction you want. Some people just want to get some exercise, while others want to win a club championship.”
Since coming to Texas, Sanchelli has organized and founded numerous programs. He has served as the tournament director for the Houston Coca-Cola Open, co-founded the Houston Parks and Recreation Department’s National Junior Tennis League, was the founding pro for the West Houston Ladies Tennis Association League, which now has 4,000 players, founded the Southwest Houston Junior Team Tennis League, and co-founded the Houston Professional Tennis Association. Sanchelli has also served the USTA as chairman of numerous Texas committees and as a referee and umpire.
“I am most proud of giving back to the game. Those positions have allowed me to give back to the game. We teach lots of kids and lots of adults. It’s getting young kids to like tennis that really makes me proud,” Sanchelli said. “At the groundbreaking ceremony at Central Catholic last spring, a woman came up to me and said I had coached her in tennis. She then started her kids in tennis and they continue to play. She became the tennis coach at her school and taught many more kids to play tennis. That’s what it’s all about.”