Geatz-ing it right: sophomore comes home to play for father

After a brief detour at Nebraska, D.J. Geatz once again has his father for a coach.

Mike Mullen

Minnesota men’s tennis coach David Geatz has not won a match against his son, D.J. Geatz.

Never.

Not when D.J. Geatz was 4 years old and just learning to play or 10 and just getting good.

This might seem odd, because David Geatz was a three-time North Dakota state champion in high school. But there’s a simple explanation.

“He won every single set we played since he was 5 years old,” David Geatz said, laughing. “Because if he didn’t, he’d throw a fit and walk off the court crying. The only way I could keep him interested was by letting him win.”

D.J. Geatz, now a sophomore on Minnesota’s squad, has long since stopped crying. But the competitive drive that sent him off the court in tears is still evident to his dad, he said.

“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” David Geatz said. “When he was younger, he didn’t have the emotional maturity, and he’d throw his racket and yell. But now, that’s probably the best part of his game – his toughness.

“I mean, he’s just a dog out there.”

The elder Geatz admits that by the time D.J. Geatz was 16, he was actually better than his father. But despite the fact that David Geatz was his exclusive teacher, the skills D.J. Geatz was developing didn’t seem familiar.

While his father relied on a big serve and solid volleys, his game was built on ground strokes.

“I couldn’t hit a return, and he’s got a great return,” David Geatz said. “I had no lob; he’s got a beautiful lob. I couldn’t keep three balls in in a row, and that’s his game.

“I guess you teach to your deficits.”

After high school, D.J. Geatz’s mother, Pam Geatz, told him that he “could go anywhere in the country – anywhere you want – except for Minnesota.”

“I think she just needed for him to get away for a year,” David Geatz said.

So D.J. Geatz chose Nebraska, where he played his freshman year. But a broken leg and other issues led him to rethink his decision and eventually led to a series of discussions with his parents that brought him home. Initially, David Geatz said he wanted his son to stay and finish what he had started. But again, Pam Geatz stepped in – “She makes all the decisions,” David Geatz said – and told her son to come home.

“I wanted to be closer to my friends and family,” D.J. Geatz said. “And (Minnesota) is just a much better tennis program.”

But before his son would be allowed to come back, David Geatz said, he needed to make some things clear.

“He basically told me I need to behave myself,” D.J. Geatz said. “I have a temper on the court, and I’ve been lazy before, and sometimes I get down on myself. And now I can’t do those things.”

The younger Geatz went on to say his dad has no problems making an example of him. When D.J. Geatz shows up five minutes late to practice, he is going to hear about it, while another player might get off a bit easier.

“But I understand that, and it’s something we talked about before I came here,” D.J. Geatz said. “Now I just try harder not to show up late.”

Teammate Sion Wilkins, who played with D.J. Geatz for two years in high school at Minneapolis South, said he’s seen a change in his attitude on court.

“If he is not playing well, he’s not afraid to show it,” Wilkins said. “But he’s gotten a lot better. I don’t know whether that’s because of his dad, but it’s better.”

Although David Geatz needed to lay some ground rules before bringing D.J. Geatz in, he said, he didn’t need much convincing to give him a shot on the team.

“It’s always been my dream to coach D.J. at Minnesota,” David Geatz said. “And he’s a great addition to the team.”