Prem Dave was already an accomplished high school tennis player when he came to a realization two years ago: He not only loved competing, he loved teaching.
While working at the Weston Racquet Club, his coach, Angelo Rosetti, got Dave involved in instructing younger players, and also suggested Dave get certified on the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR).
The result has been a victory for both Dave and the Norwalk boys tennis program.
“We’re not Staples or Greenwich or Darien where every kid on the team has a private coach,” Norwalk coach Kevin Grady said. “Even though he could go and play with elite players, he’s there at practice to help out all the other kids on the team.
“He gives lessons to people and basically he’s giving lessons to the kids on our team for free.”
Dave has been focused on coaching youth players in his free time, and said his main goal is to make sure they’re enjoying tennis.
“That’s something I enjoy seeing, especially with the younger kids,” said Dave, who will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall. “I’ve been a competitive player since I was 7 or 8 years old, so I never really viewed the game as recreational — it was always ‘What can I do to get better?’
“So I have adapted a little bit to help them get better but mainly to make sure they’re having a good time.”
Dave is certainly a multi-faceted student-athlete at Norwalk High.
In addition to his exploits on the tennis courts, he’s a CIAC scholar-athlete award-winner, a four-year athlete in cross country, the Class of 2021 student treasurer, president of BROWN (Bears Reaching Out Within Norwalk) and a member of the debate team. He has also volunteered at Greenwich Hospital and with Norwalk Grassroots Tennis and Education, which provides tennis instruction and academic support to under-served children.
After graduating from Norwalk High on May 22, Dave will be leaving to pursue a degree in molecular and cellular biology at Johns Hopkins University beginning in the fall.
It’s a challenging field, but Dave is a man of many talents and is well aware of the work ahead. His mom, Priti Dave, is a microbiologist at Norwalk Hospital.
“From an early age, I was used to being in a hospital and seeing how everything worked,” said Dave, who wants to pursue surgery. “At the time, I didn’t know I’d want to go into the medical profession but science was always the subject I liked the most in school.”
As a tennis player, Dave has had a remarkable career for a Bears program which struggles against the very difficult FCIAC schedule. Dave is 16-1 this season, with his only loss coming to Staples’ Tighe Brunetti, a friend and frequent training partner.
The two FCIAC stars are the top two seeds in the CIAC invitational tournament this week, with Dave at No. 2 and Brunetti at No. 1. Both players had first-round byes and won their round of 16 matches on Monday morning. The quarterfinals are Tuesday, with the semis Wednesday and the final Thursday at Wesleyan University.
As a freshman, Dave teamed with Taishi Hosokawa to win both the Class LL and State Open doubles championships in 2018, and as a sophomore, he reached the Class LL singles quarterfinals before being eliminated. He had a couple of match points in his quarterfinal loss, and being so close to victory has added to his motivation for this week’s Invitational.
“I was capable of making the semis then and I’m hoping to make another deep run this year and hopefully win it all,” Dave said. “But I really just want to go out there and play my best tennis. I know if I play my best tennis, I’ll definitely have a shot at the title.”
Dave has Division I talent, but had his eyes wide open when looking at colleges.
During the end of his sophomore year and his junior year, Dave began focusing more on an academic fit. He stopped training and playing tournaments on the weekend because of the time commitment, and was engrossed in finding a future in the medical field.
When it came to Johns Hopkins, Dave felt he could compete for the tennis team, a Division III program, while also keeping up with his schoolwork.
“I wanted to get a little bit further away and explore and I wanted to be in an urban setting,” Dave said. “Baltimore is a great city and Hopkins is a great school for that. The name that it has as it relates to pre-med and the fact that it’s a DIII program was a good fit for me.”
He reached out to the program and head coach Chuck Willenborg, applied early-decision and was accepted within a month late in 2020.
“I was lucky enough to find out early where I’d be going to college, so it was relieving to get that out of the way and comforting to know where I’d be going,” Dave said.
Grady said he could tell Dave had talent when he was a freshman, but his game has improved to an even higher level as a senior.
“As a freshman, it was just he’s got better skills than a lot of the guys,” Grady said. “But now, he’s at an elite level and conditioning is a major deal for him. As a senior, he’s grown into his body, so now he’s bigger, faster and stronger than kids. You can definitely see it play into his game.”
As for his fledgling coaching career, Dave said he hopes to continue at least until he leaves for college in August.
He said he gets satisfaction out of seeing he’s making a difference in the kids’ games, but also that they’re enjoying the time on the court.
“They’re having fun,” Dave said. “They’re laughing and at the end of the lesson, they feel like they had a good time.”