Last Summer, Cindy Keeling, the women's tennis coach at American River College in Sacramento, set her sights on a blue-chip prospect. "I knew she was talented," says Keeling. "I knew she was disciplined. I knew she wouldn't quit on me. I was a little nervous about what the team might think of her, but I needed her badly."
Keeling's recruiting pitch was successful, and why not? The blue-chipper was her mother, Eleanor, 55, who took up the game in her late 30's and had become a pretty fair tournament player. Enrolling at American River, she was 17-1 this spring playing No. 4 singles for the Beavers. "Mom had a great year," says Cindy.
"I did it because I wanted to play on Cindy's team, and I was interested in going to college, because I'd never been," says Eleanor.
Mother has taken pains to defer in tennis matters to daughter, who played No. 1 for UC Irvine in 1982 and '83. "I let her be the boss on the court," says Eleanor. "I even tried to do the workouts and wind sprints the other girls did, as much as I could." The resentment that Cindy feared never materialized, although Eleanor's 20-year-old doubles partner, Lisa Holland, was heard to complain, "I come to the courts to relax and get away from Mom, and here she is playing next to me." Says Eleanor, "I did give the girls a little advice on how to take care of themselves, on getting to bed early, things like that." But she was even rougher on opponents. "When they saw me this spring, they thought they could run me and tire me out, but I'm steady and outlasted most of them."
The Keelings will play mother-daughter doubles events this summer, before returning to school for another season. "I expected to get only one season out of her, but things went really well," says Cindy. "She's easy to coach. At least with her, I always know she's going to make curfew."