This story has been updated.
Fans, friends and family gathered last weekend at the Los Angeles Tennis Club to celebrate the life of tennis profressional and coach Bruce Foxworth who passed away on October 21, 2021 after a two year battle with prostate cancer. He was 65.
Head Tennis Professional Jerome Peri welcomed guests by noting Foxworth’s contributions to the club’s teaching program, helping adults and junior players develop technically and mentally to become worthy competitors and enjoy the game of tennis. More than a dozen members, colleagues, students, and friends of Foxworth shared their remembrances of this incredibly gifted tennis player and teacher, who quite literally modeled his positive messages of hope and hard work every day.
Foxworth was an accomplished professional tennis player ranked in the top 100. He was member of the elite “21 years and under 1977 U.S. Davis Cup team.” He earned the distinguished title of National Amateur Clay Court Champion in 1977. He played at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the French Open. When he no longer played professionally, Foxworth coached professional players with winning results at all 4 Grand Slams.
Foxworth was born in St. Louis in 1956. He was from a large, athletic St. Louis family, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which reported on Foxworth’s induction into the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame in 2019 and noted that he started playing tennis at the age of 7.
Foxworth played collegiate tennis at Hampton University, a private historically black research university in Hampton, Virginia. In the 1980s, Foxworth settled in Los Angeles, where he often taught and practiced at The Tennis Place, founded by Carl Earn in 1976 during the height of the tennis boom. The 16-court facility on Third Street in the Miracle Mile area was a popular place for players of all races.
In 1992, Foxworth broke his neck in a near fatal automobile accident, facing a less than .5% chance of walking again. Defying odds, he returned to tennis just two years later, coaching and traveling with players on the professional circuit. He joined the LATC in October, 1999. His legacy of positivity and resilience has been inspirational to the Los Angeles Tennis Club community, which has been fortunate to count Foxworth among its tennis professionals for the past 22 years.
In 2011, the USTA awarded Foxworth the Curt Condon Spirt award, created in memory of Curt Condon, an ATP player and dedicated teaching professional who died of brain cancer at the age of 54. Condon was named “most inspirational athlete” during his college days at Cal State Long Beach for his unwillingness to give up, but rather to face the battles that you are given.
In a life of tennis, Curt Condon came to believe there were matters more important than the score.
“Even if he were behind Mr. Condon would tell himself to focus on his strategy and goals. If he could persist, he felt it wasn’t important whether he won or lost. That approach to life, was recognized in Bruce in 2011 when the USTA presented him with this award,” said Holly Cindell, former LATC president who spoke at the memorial.
In his acceptance of the award, Foxworth said, “When we accept and embrace these challenges with the right attitude, it is the transformation from the negative to the positive which brings the fulfillment that keeps us coming back out to play. Positive attitude easily results in a positive outcome, just as a negative attitude results in a negative outcome. As Pops’ words echoed in my ears, along with my tennis history as a reminder, I knew my attitude would be the key to my success.”
Foxworth would repeat that message over the years to his students. Despite his physical challenges, no one ever heard him complain, and he never gave up. Speaker after speaker rose to eulogize Foxworth for his perseverance and good humor, his inspirational courage to continue a life in tennis after his injury.
Those who knew him before the accident, like LATC Teaching Professional Clay Redwood, recalled Foxworth’s smooth playing style, his intelligence, his efficiency on court and his walk.
“Bruce had a kind of hydraulics that powered him,” said Redwood.
College friend and tennis teammate Joe Ragland recalled how Foxworth would jump rope for an hour and how he inspired Ragland to work harder to become a better tennis player.
Young students spoke of the powerful influence Foxworth had over their lives as well as their tennis game. During his two decades at LATC running the junior tennis program, Foxworth watched many of them grow up, some continuing with tennis, others leaving the game but always remembering the coach who served as such a powerful example.
One former student, Melissa Nguyen, now a teaching professional at LATC, described when she met Foxworth at the age of 9, thanks to a tennis enthusiast friend of her mother’s. Nguyen recalled that her life changed the night she met him. Foxworth served as her coach, guiding her through high school and eventually to play college at Columbia University. Like extended family, Foxworth and his wife Geri were also instrumental in bringing Nguyen to LATC as a young professional.
“He was a talented genius by the way he selected his words meticulously, to convey exactly what he wanted to communicate…Whenever he decided to give a tip, it was done so timely, crystal clear, concise and easy to conceptualize, so that I was able to understand immediately,” said Nguyen, who described her former coach as a self-taught, creative mastermind who, through tennis, opened up a world and options that would not have been there for her otherwise.
Nguyen admired the devotion of Foxworth’s wife Geri for her years of caring for her husband, whom she met and married just a few short years before his tragic accident. In closing, she thanked the staff and leadership of LATC for inviting Foxworth into the club. She said he proved that the nearly impossible was indeed possible. He lived with honor and strength, an inspiration to all. Nguyen challenged those assembled to create a scholarship in Foxworth’s name to support rising junior tennis players.
Geri Foxworth thanked everyone for all their years of acceptance and understanding. She recounted the dramatic story of how Foxworth was rescued from his near fatal accident and his long recovery. She credited her husband, whom she lovingly called “the Fox,” for making her the person she is today.
Foxworth inspired his peer professionals and his students with his insight and confidence. Anyone who had the opportunity to play with Bruce or be coached by him knew they had been in the presence of a very special teacher, a tennis “yoda” as Nguyen called him. I was fortunate to have that experience as an occasional student and someone who benefited from his willingness to help with everyone’s game.
Foxworth will be missed but his legacy of positivity and hard work will live on with those he has inspired.
I want to thank Patty for this article on “THE FOX” my very unique husband. I am on the rode to healing and pulling some of that Foxy positivity out of my soul to carry on and smile. I do admit I am still breaking up into tears if I go too deeply into our world! Truly this man was The Greatest Love of ALL! (I love u Bruce 4ever and ever, nothing cud break the bond after so many years of huge fighting to survive. He was my Prince and of course my angel.