Marc Brix played tennis for James Madison from 1987 to 1991, during which time the team won two conference championships. He was a doubles partner and teammate of current JMU men’s tennis head coach Steve Secord.
For many student-athletes, life after JMU does not mean life without sports. No matter the sport, athletes go on to play at all levels of the game, whether at a local recreation center or at the professional level. They may take time off, but most find their way back to the sports they love.
Former men’s tennis player Marc Brix took 15 years off from the game before returning to the courts in 2012. After a few International Tennis Federation tournaments in Germany and Spain last year, he won the under-45 seniors division of the ITF World Doubles Championship on March 31 in Antalya, Turkey.
He won the title with Texas-native Scott Works after surviving the five rounds of the single-elimination tournament. The two met just an hour before their first match together.
“I had missed the deadline for doubles because I thought there would be a sign-in during the tournament, which wasn’t the case for the world championships,” Brix admitted. “They gave me a wild card, but I didn’t have a partner. They looked at the sign-up list from before the deadline to see who was still looking for a partner.”
When Brix and Works were warming up together prior to their first match, they covered the basics—which side of the court each played on and whether he used forehand or backhand. From then on, they developed a rapport with one another as they battled through tough competition and advanced to the championship round.
“We beat four teams from different countries [to get into the final match] and all played great doubles,” Brix remembered. “At that point, I was pretty confident that we were going to win it because, by then, we were able to see what our skills were as a team. We also had the chance look at the other teams.”
Brix’s confidence was well placed in his team’s abilities. The pair defeated the second-seeded team in the tournament 6-1, 6-4 to take the crown.
“It was a great feeling, especially winning with a teammate I had met just five days earlier,” he said. “The nice thing about the tournament was the respect amongst the players. We won some very close matches, and the opponents were always very fair and showed a lot of respect. The overall atmosphere was very positive so to have won it was just the icing on the cake.”
Away from tennis, Brix currently lives in his native Düsseldorf, Germany where he owns his own sport marketing agency. He graduated from JMU in 1991 with a degree in business administration and marketing.
“Right after college, I worked in D.C. for a year then went back to Germany where I was a trainee at two advertising agencies. I didn’t like that too much so I started my own business, and I’m still doing that,” he acknowledged. “I’ve stayed in sports and stayed in marketing.”
Brix came to JMU in 1987 because it seemed like the perfect fit as it allowed him to combine his love of playing tennis, getting a high-level education and living in a foreign country. He notes that his time at JMU taught him more than he anticipated.
“It was the first time where I really learned to balance the things in life you have to manage. Back then, it was the athletic portion and the education part. To this day, I emphasize these things in different ways, but I also have a business and a family.”
During his time at JMU, the team won the CAA Championship. As an individual, he won a conference singles tournament that meant defeating three of his teammates.
“I don’t know if that’s the great part of the memory, but it was special because it meant we were all at a pretty high level,” he remarked.
With his latest title, Brix has shown he can still play at a high level. Next up is a competitive club tennis season in Germany. Then, he’ll decide if he will compete in next year’s ITF world championships tournament. As long as it’s fun and enjoyable, he’ll continue heading to the tennis courts because he still loves the game.
“Tennis to me means the same as it did when I was in college. Back then, we said it was the game of life—you have to focus on the details to achieve the big things. When you’re out there on your own, there will be ups and downs, problems you have to overcome. There are days and times where you are successful and there are others when you’re not and you don’t know why. You have to work your way through life and those difficult situations.”