Don’t you just love people who have a strong passion for what they do?
I’ve come across two people lately who possess that magical trait which makes what they do not about work but about a lifetime of joy. Yes, fun. I know what that is because I’ve been living it for a half-century.
I saw it recently in a long-time local television icon most of you know, and in a younger man you don’t know who is dedicating his life to teaching others the sport he lives and breathes, tennis.
Let’s focus first on Mel Busler, who has been a significant part of viewers’ lives for 33 years as the sports commentator on the Fox and CBS television stations in Watertown.
Last week Busler journeyed to our summer cottage in Alex Bay to do a two-part interview discussing my career.
The project was expanded when he met my wife, Jamie, and learned how it came to be that I do indeed spend my summers here at this wonderful locale.
The two day feature was superbly edited and produced and we have received widespread recognition by friends and others who viewed the story.
But this isn’t about me, or us. It’s about what Mel Busler does and has done for decades.
When Mel arrived at our cottage in the Channel 7 news van with his two-man crew it brought to mind how I started in this business. Doing exactly what he does.
Going out and getting stories with a crew every day and heading back to the station preparing that night’s sports segment on the local evening news.
How fortunate viewers here in the north country are to have a man who loves where he lives and has dedicated himself to delivering his reports to his loyal followers precisely where he wants to do his work
In essence, he is big fish in the only pond that matters.
I salute Mel Busler, and relish the fact I have had the opportunity to meet him.
The man you don’t know is Ryan Jeckel, who was kind enough to play in the recent John Russell Memorial Doubles Tennis Tournament in Alexandria Bay. Jeckel is a 33 year old teaching pro from Mannheim, Pa, outside of Lancaster not far from Philadelphia.
Ryan knew his passion from the time he was five years old. His father, Joe, was a proficient player and while lessons were hard to come by on a teacher’s salary, young Ryan constantly hit balls against a wooden garage door.
He loved the game so much, he served as manager of the girls tennis team in high school at the same time he played on the varsity boys’ team.
Ryan was a late-bloomer as far as college was concerned and a possible career.
He did attend several schools for a period of time but his love of tennis never took a backseat to any other line of work
There is always a turning point, and for Ryan Jeckel it was in the spring of 2005 when Whit Evans who coached at the Hempfield Tennis Club and taught tennis in the Special Olympics, asked Jeckel to teach at a camp at Franklin and Marshall College . It wasn’t your ordinary tennis camp. Unlike the majority of youngsters who grow up in a more country-club atmosphere, these were underprivileged kids who were saddled with problems but wanted to give their all in the hour or so they had for tennis each day.
That’s when Ryan decided to become a certified teaching professional.
He also decided to forego any further college education to simply be a tennis instructor
The story reminds me of Mike Krzyzewski’s thought that perhaps advanced high school basketball prospects should skip college altogether and hopefully be drafted in the NBA and begin their pro careers, not wasting the time of one-year in college This is not to draw a parallel to hoop prospects and a teaching pro in tennis, but you have to wonder if someone has an unquenchable thirst for something, go for it. Why wait?
So Ryan Jeckel loves teaching all ages, and as he says “lives for the light-bulb moment”, when a pupil finally “gets it!” For the teacher there is no more rewarding experience.
For him, it’s all about the desire of someone wanting to get better. Desire, the number one ingredient.
On Sunday, The Hempfield Rec Center in Landisville, Pa will host its 10th annual $25,000 ITF Women’s Circuit Tennis Tournament . Don’t be fooled by the name of the Center. There are six indoor and 10 outdoor courts which will be filled by the finest young ladies, aged 15 to the early 30’s, with a qualifying draw of 32 followed by main draw of 64 plus Doubles.
They’ll come from all over the world, including the Czech Republic, Russia, Austria and Spain among other nations. Three years ago, for example Johanna Konta from Great Britain played. She currently is the 7th ranked singles player in the world.
For Ryan Jeckel it’s all icing on the cake. For Mel Busler, for 33 years, he’s had his cake and is eating it too.
A couple of guys who have made their passion pay off in their lives.
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