“Being at the Israel Tennis & Education Centers was always something very special… like being part of a special unit of the Israeli army.”
So recalls 32 year old Maor Zirkin, Director at the prestigious College Park Athletic Club outside Chicago, who grew up honing his tennis skills at the ITEC – Ramat Hasharon. He was introduced to the game at the age of 5 and started playing in earnest three years later, encouraged by his father to train at the center. Although he lived an hour from the center, his father felt very strongly that playing at the center was a “big step” in his son’s pursuit of excellence.
“We knew that world class players like Amos Mansdorf and Gilad Bloom had trained there, so this is where he wanted me to be if I wanted to compete anywhere near that level,” Maor recalled.
His training regimen quickly advanced from once a week to twice a week before being selected for very special training course led by legendary ITEC coach Gadi Margalit who passed away six years ago. The coach and his famous Gadi Drill were huge factors in helping Maor to believe in himself. “I still do the drill to this day to keep his legacy alive and well.”
Following two years at the Wingate Institute, Maor returned to the ITEC to continue his training with other successful stars like Harel Levy and Dan Hanegby z”l. Also during this time he competed in national tournaments which further taught him valuable life skills such as perseverance and discipline. It helped him become Israel National Champion in his age group.
After a successful stint in the Israeli army, Maor enrolled at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he excelled on the school’s tennis team, and where, during his freshman year, met the young woman who would eventually become his wife. During summer breaks while in college he worked with tennis great and ITEC alum Gilad Bloom in New York City where Maor was mentored on how to teach and coach tennis which helped his career tremendously. And although he earned a degree in Finance and International Business, he always felt that his future belonged on the tennis court mentoring young people the same way he was taught growing up in Israel.
As luck would have it, he had the good fortune of meeting fellow ITEC alum and Director at the College Park Athletic Club Rob Budacsek who he knew and travelled with throughout Israel when Maor was a teenager and Rob was his coach. Maor has been there ever since, first as an Assistant Director of the club’s high performance program and now as Director of several tennis programs.
“Having the opportunity to play at the Israel Tennis & Education Centers was a real game changer for me,” Maor said. “Being around a coach like Gadi Margalit made everyone feel like a winner no matter how well you played. And that feeling of confidence is something I have taken with me to this day. It taught me to always aim for the sky in everything I pursued. And that has helped me become the successful adult I am today. The ITEC provided an inspiring environment in which we all learned to work hard and strive to reach our full potential.”