Former Wheelock Men's Tennis Player Taking His Message on the Tour
In a span of five years, Dash Kramer went from the warm, sandy beaches of Malibu, California to playing tennis at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts and now in development for a reality show with the Bravo Network called, “A Dash of Tennis”, chronicling his journey for a spot on the professional world tennis circuit.
WEST MEETS EAST
Kramer just happened to be in the right place at the right time when a coach told him about a school in Boston, that was starting a male athletics program for the 2007-08 campaign.
“When I was training out on the West Coast, I had met a coach that knew that there was a basketball and tennis program starting there (Wheelock College),” explained Kramer. “That’s basically how I heard about it. He knew they were going to have a tennis program and that I could also be part of the basketball team, if I was interested in playing both.”
Being able to play both tennis and basketball at Wheelock really appealed to Kramer. Once he got to the Boston school, he enjoyed playing basketball for the Wildcats, but discovered that tennis was where his heart was at.
“I found that I was really passionate about tennis, so that’s when I really started to focus on tennis,” said Kramer.
A PART OF HISTORY
His experience at the NCAA Division III school helped ignite and maintain his passion for making tennis his career. Maybe it was just fate that Kramer would be introduced to the Boston school, where he would become one of the college’s first male athletic stars in just its first year of collegiate competition. He also liked the fact that he would be a part of history and one of the many building blocks to establish a quality program.
“I wanted to help grow the program, while I was there,” said Kramer. “That was one of the main reasons of why I went to Wheelock. Because it was the inaugural year for men’s sports and I felt that I really wanted to be a part of that. Just kind of get it off the right foot and be part of something that was brand new. I felt that it would be really cool to always have that.”
Kramer also appreciated the effort that was made by Wheelock to cultivate the program during its early stages.
“Everyone seemed super friendly and nice and the former athletic director was wonderful, Diana (Cutaia),” explained Kramer. “Playing basketball and tennis, it was great! There was always a tremendous amount of support. Diana would always ask if there was anything that we felt we needed. They (administration) always asked how everything was going. And all the sports – they seem to really love all their sports programs. It helps when you have a program that stands behind all their sports. I was just really excited to be part of a program that was so supportive of their athletes and their athletics in general.”
The support that Kramer received as an athlete at Wheelock played a big part in his success on the tennis court as well.
“It was very motivating to be in an atmosphere like that,” explained Kramer. “I think I lost my first match and then went on to win six or seven matches in a row.”
Kramer’s streak came to an end in his final regular season match, but he avenged the loss in the North Atlantic Conference Tournament Semifinals to set up a date in the championship at number one singles. He fell short in the final, but did not come away empty-handed, winning the number one doubles crown with partner Wilson Chang.
“I actually still have the plaque that we won -- and the end of the year award from Wheelock is framed and hanging in my house,” gushed Kramer. “All the support and everything allowed me to flourish as an athlete. I was driven to make a good name for the school and do well for myself.”
FEELING RIGHT AT HOME
Going to college at Wheelock wasn’t solely about the tennis for Kramer. It was also about the experience and the intimacy that the school in the Fenway section of Boston could offer.
“Because I was coming from the West Coast, it was an adjustment period for me,” offered Kramer. “The fact that it was small and everyone really cared and all the teachers really cared about their students – it made the transition and everything much easier. It was much easier than I thought it would be. It was wonderful. I was able to have one on one connections with the teachers, everything was just well-rounded and came together well. You would see your friends every day, so you didn’t get lost in the crowd.”
Kramer loved his time at Wheelock, but also enjoyed living in Boston.
“That was kind of fun,” said Kramer of living in the Hub. “Just the whole city life living, I loved it! Even the fact that being a West Coast kid and stuff, everything down to the public transportation and all that -- it was just a lot of fun for me. I was able to grow up as a person a lot and mature more because of it.”
BACK TO THE BEACH
Although, Kramer was growing as a person and fanning the flames for his passion as a tennis player at Wheelock, he was also feeling the tug of the comfort of being home on the West Coast.
“I got a little bit homesick and needed to figure out the path that I wanted to go and make sure that I wanted to pursue tennis one hundred percent,” said Kramer.
After returning to Malibu, he went to school at California State University Lutheran and Hope International University, before focusing on his lifelong dream of playing tennis. Kramer began training with his eye on playing on the pro tour, seeing action on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit, while earning points to improve his state ranking.
He continued to pursue his dreams and at the same time felt that he could inspire others to pursue theirs as well. It’s not often that people get a chance to see what that experience looks like, so Kramer’s management presented an idea to the Bravo Television Network to tell his story.
“We are in development with Bravo just showing my journey as a player and being an inspiration to everyone,” said Kramer. “Just kind of documenting and showing the life of someone becoming a professional athlete and being a professional athlete.”
It was important to Kramer to be able to show that being a professional athlete is not just fun and games and fame and fortune. He also wanted to stress to anyone else pursuing a dream like his that it’s never too late to start and any challenge can be overcome.
“A lot of times now, you just see the finished product on television. You don’t see the actual work and what the day to day choices are. In the tennis world, after high school, if you don’t go for the Pro Tour, you are never going to be able to do it. You can’t play college at all. You’re too old. I want to show people, you know, it can happen and it’s going to happen. It’s all on everyone’s own time frame. It’s all about persistence and fighting through and not listening to the people saying, ‘Oh well, you can’t do it’.”
Kramer was skeptical about becoming involved with a reality television project at first.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the idea in general, but now the idea has really grown on me and I am excited about doing it,” he said. “I am really excited about being a voice for all these other kids, who may have been told that they can’t do it, that they can. If they really want to do it, they can go out and do it. No matter what age, what their financial situation is, where they are living, anything.”
Anyone watching Kramer’s new show will see that becoming a pro isn’t easy by a long shot.
“The training is much different,” explains Kramer. “It’s doing about five to six hours a day on the tennis court, like drills and training and points and everything, then its two hours in the gym working on cardio and fitness and everything. So, in college I think it’s like two to three hours of practice and then some schools don’t even put the gym aspect in. They don’t have like an actual fitness coach that goes in there and looks at all the players and says you need to work on this; you need to work on that, you need to work on this. It’s fun doing it. You want to win yeah, but the Pro aspect is a completely different way of life. It is a whole lifestyle and it is a whole lifestyle change. Your whole life is involved in it.”
His typical day is no piece of cake either.
“More or less I wake up; get some breakfast. You always got to eat healthy. Always healthy, where you have to watch everything that you are putting into your body. I like to shower in the morning; it kind of helps wake me up. Sometimes I’ll do my cardio before practice and get out in the gym before practice. When I’m on the practice courts, I’ll work on my drills, I’ll work on everything if I have had a match the day before or so, I’ll work on what I need to fix. I’ll be out there for a couple of hours. Sometimes I’ll take a forty-five minute lunch break, and then I’ll get back out onto the courts. Court time is about five to six hours. After the courts, I’ll go right into the gym and then I’ll work out and do the weights. If I didn’t do cardio in the morning I’ll do cardio then. After that I cook dinner and relax. Stretching is always very important before and after, so then I’ll stretch and then dinner.”
Along with a heightened training regimen, Kramer also has a number of coaches to help raise the level of his game.
“I have about three coaches. I have a hitting partner, I have an actual technique coach, I guess you could call it, like a fundamental, and then I have like an in gym trainer,” said Kramer. “I work with a mental coach as well, because the mental game is a big aspect of it. So, I guess four coaches then.”
COMING OF AGE
Kramer has come a long way since he was a freshman on the first-ever tennis team at Wheelock College, but he’s also carried many of the lessons he’s learned from those days on his current journey.
“(The people at Wheelock) were so supportive of everything in my decisions and everything that I wanted to do and they supported me as an athlete personally and then the tennis team and in general. Just a positive, supportive atmosphere and that is what also helped me make my decision to pursue and become a pro player. It helped me build a lot of confidence in what I was doing out there in my matches and then off the court as well. So, the main thing is I would obviously never tell someone to drop out of college, but I would urge them, and what they helped me realize too, to pursue your dreams and go after what you want to do. And if you know it’s time and you want to do it -- then do it. The positivity is huge in that aspect. To be honest, in tennis especially, you don’t want to be around negativity. It doesn’t matter if you are going to a Division III or a Division I school. If you are surrounded by positive people you can do anything you put your mind and your heart to, and you can do it.”
Dash Kramer seems to be doing just fine.