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By Steve Finley
Sports Editor 

The pandemic helps the tennis programs grow at the Culver City Parks


March 31, 2022

George Laase

Culver City Parks tennis instructor, Mike Lanahan watches his student, Alexa Sun practice her serve at Lindberg Park.

Tennis has always been a popular sport in Southern California mainly because of the weather but when the pandemic appeared a few years ago the sport took off like a rocket ship especially in the Culver City parks. Parks like Lindberg, Culver West, Fox Hills and Vets have some of the best tennis instructors in the city. One of those instructors is Mike Lanahan.

"The pandemic gave tennis a boost that it not had in years," said long time tennis instructor and coach Lanahan. "Not since Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in 1973 has tennis been so popular. It is the perfect sport to play during a pandemic. Now everyone wants to play tennis again."

It helps a lot when Culver City has instructors that not only know how to play the game, but they are also excellent teachers. "I started playing tennis as a kid growing up in Indiana," said Lanahan. "Tennis was not a big sport there because of the weather but I had a natural feel for it. I played in high school and in college at Notre Dame."

Lanahan moved to California to go to film school at USC and he needed a job while he was in graduate school, so he got various jobs teaching tennis and working on movie sets. "I actually found out that I like giving tennis lessons. I was also working as a production assistant on a few movies taking orders and I found out that giving instructions on the court was fun."

During his years of coaching, he coached seven National Champions. "I was coaching a seven-year-old girl name Akiko Gooden," said Lanahan. "Her first lesson I had her start close to the net and I tossed her the ball and she hit it back about 90 mph. That's when I knew she was going to be special. I worked with her for years and I got her into tournaments. She became the No. 1 tennis player in her age group in California. She also won the 12 and under National Championship."

Lanahan is also an accomplished screen writer, and he has several films to his credit but the tennis court was always pulling him closer to the net. "In the movie business you can go years between movies, so I started focusing more on tennis than the movies.

"It's pretty intoxicating when you are at these tournaments, and you watch your student play for a national championship but there are a lot of losses along the way. My worst loss was to a girl named Serena Williams in 1993. That was a bad day for a coach."

Now Lanahan has a lot of good days coaching and teaching tennis in Culver City and working for the Parks Department. "It's a nice area with nice people," said Lanahan. "Culver City is a well-run city and it's in a good location for tennis. They do a good job of taking care of the facilities and they have good staff working in the parks."

George Laase

From kids to adults, Culver City parks has tennis instructors that get the job done the right way. "It's fun working with people at all levels,' said Lanahan. "It's very satisfying to see the players get better and to see them having fun. I will be coaching tennis for a long time."

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To sign up for tennis lessons please call 310 253-6650.


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