Meet Pelham Racquet Club’s New Assistant Tennis Pro
Pelham Racquet Club has an impressive lineup of tennis pros associated with the facility. Now there’s a new pro on the court, and he’s ready to get more people involved with tennis and help players to reach their full potential.
In his “day job”, or more specifically, his early-morning job, Michael Helms is widely known as “Helmsey” on the nationally-syndicated “Rick and Bubba” Show. The former All-Conference baseball player at Jacksonville State University and avid golfer has been involved with tennis for about 20 years. His journey to become a tennis pro began about three years ago when he started considering what he was going to do with the rest of his life. “I thought, ‘Why not get USPTA certified and become a tennis pro?’ I made up my mind and received the certification. Eventually, I had a chance to talk with (Racquet Club Director) Chaney Mills and (Head Tennis Pro) Ryen Valentine one day when my kids were in a tennis tournament at the Pelham Racquet Club. I told them I was USPTA certified and I wanted to get my feet wet at some point. I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but the next thing I know, I’m full-throttle, all-in and it’s been great. I went from thinking this was something I’d dip my toe in one day to teaching beginners and running private clinics. I can’t get enough of it now!”
Because of his radio job, Helms is up bright and early on weekday mornings. “My alarm goes off at 3:55 in the morning. I get to the studio around 4:30, and we go on the air at 5:00. When the show is over at 10:00, I usually do some post-show production. Depending on my lesson and clinic schedule, I might have a little time to take a quick break at home. Then it’s on to the Pelham Racquet Club for the afternoon. It makes for a long day, but it’s a lot of fun.” When asked if he is used to the early alarm after 14 years with the show, Helms chuckles. “It’s still unnatural. Bill “Bubba” Bussey told me when I first started, ‘There will be people who’ll tell you you’ll get used to it, but I’m here to tell you, you won’t!” I just have to make adjustments. I take naps when I have a chance, and I discipline myself to get in bed at a certain time. That’s hard sometimes because I have three kids, and they need their dad.”
Michael is very proud of his family, including Amanda, his wife of 20 years, and their children, Brayden, Caroline, and Madelyn. The Helms children are very involved in the sport of tennis. “My oldest, who is 17 now, and my 15-year-old have always played. I’ve been in it because of them. I’ve played in a ton of USTA leagues, captained some leagues, and I’ve taught private lessons over the past 10-12 years for my friends’ children. Nothing official, but I’ve had my hand in the game in some form or fashion for a long time,” Helms explained.
In his new role with the Pelham Racquet Club, Helms said he is finding satisfaction in teaching beginner-advanced lessons to kids that are between 6-14 years old. “I realized how important the early process of learning the game can be. I don’t want them to advance to the next class and not have the fundamentals to help them grow even more. I’m taking this huge responsibility to get it right so their next instructor can work on strategy and tactics; things they will need as they start playing tournaments.”
One thing Helms hopes to accomplish is making tennis more accessible to everyone that wants to play. “Tennis is still viewed by many as a country club sport. Wrong, right, or indifferent, that stigma is there. This is one of the main reasons I love the Pelham Racquet Club. At a public facility like this, we can do something about that.”
If you are interested in learning more about the game of tennis, contact the Pelham Racquet Club at (205) 621-3380. People of all ages and skill levels are welcome.