Beyond the Baseline: Mitch Hassenbein`

May 22, 2024

A tennis court is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide, but for many people, it represents something much larger than that. For Mitch Hassenbein, it’s the place he feels most comfortable. Mitch’s son Drew was one of the best players in the United States, a top-ranked junior amongst his peers and a star player for the Roslyn High School tennis team despite still being in middle school.

A year ago, Drew and Roslyn teammate Ethan Falkowitz were tragically killed by a drunk driver while heading home from a team dinner. The senseless tragedy left a community shaken and two families fractured. Now, Mitch Hassenbein is using the thing that bonded him most to his son as a way of remembering him, and using Drew’s legacy to help young tennis players.

“The thing about Drew was that he had this incredible passion and competitive nature, but he was able to keep it under control. And he was his best on the biggest stages,” said Mitch. “And that comes from confidence, which comes from all the hard work and training that he did in practice to perform when it came time to compete. If you can outwork everybody, you are going to have a lot of success. That’s one thing you can control, how much work and effort you put in, and that’s what Drew did every day.”

Hassenbein says he never feels more connected to his son than when he is on the court, and is now using all of the experience he gained from working and traveling with Drew. It began with him giving lessons at East Hills Park in Roslyn, and he then went indoors and began teaching lessons at Robbie Wagner’s Tournament Training Center (RWTT), the place where Drew spent countless hours training.

“I needed a way to find some peace and solace and some time when I can really reflect and think about Drew in a positive way,” he said. “Being on the court brings back so many memories. It was an automatic thing. For me, everyday was going to work, and then afterwards going to tennis with Drew, whether that was driving him to practice or working with him at the house. It was all about tennis training and commitment to a schedule. I can’t sit in the house. I need some sort of normalcy in my routine and a lot of that was driving back and forth between tennis courts and facilities, so I just wanted to maintain that and see if I can help some others at the same time. That’s what it’s been. It’s worked pretty well. It’s kept me busy, and it’s kept me distracted. And I think, and the hope is, the kids are benefitting from the time I am putting in.”

After receiving many requests for assistance from schools, Hassenbein joined the Friends Academy boys team this spring as an assistant coach. He is very enthusiastic about this opportunity, and the team is happy to have him join them.

“Mitch clearly loves tennis and has been an enthusiastic and inspiring assistant at practices and matches,” said Friends Academy head coach Owen Kassimir. “Most of the kids on the team knew Drew as a fellow tennis player and are happy to share the love of the game with his dad. I look forward to continuing our relationship both on and off the court.

Mitch Hassenbein (right) with Owen Kassimir (left) at a Friends Academy match this season

Hassenbein added:

“In high school tennis, you have a short window with these players, the season goes by so fast, and my goal is just to help everyone improve a little bit, whether it’s their serve, or the forehand, the footwork, maybe strategy, anything I can do to help give them the edge to their games that I have learned in my experience on the national circuit from traveling with Drew and learning from him. The funny thing is I learned more from Drew than he did from me. After a while, he was the one telling me to change my grip on my racquet, and coach me. I refer back to a lot of my times with Drew and it becomes a comfort. One of the few places I have comfort is on the court, that’s where I feel really close to him.”

The Hassenbein family is also continuing Drew’s legacy through the Drew Hassenbein Foundation, which is helping expose underprivileged children to the sport of tennis, sponsoring elite juniors, and helping aspiring pros to become the next USA tennis champions. The foundation has already raised close to $500,000 through generous donations, fundraisers, tournaments, merchandise sales and more, which it has used to provide equipment for underprivileged youngsters, grant funding to help with coaching and traveling expenses for junior players, amongst other things.

The Foundation is currently sponsoring two of Drew’s close friends who are top juniors and providing them with the necessary resources to pursue their dreams.

“Both through the foundation and through my teaching, we are trying to tell Drew’s story,” said Hassenbein. “Drew was a recipe of hard work. People called him gifted and said he was a prodigy, but he was those things because of the work and hours he put in. That made him who he was, and he loved it. I am trying to teach and educate the people I’m working with that if you are serious about tennis, you have to love it. You have to love to do the work, and not do it because it feels like a job or because your parents are forcing you to. If you want to compete at the highest level, you have to love it and want to achieve great things.”

The Foundation has plans for a prominent event in the near future. The foundation will always be remembering Drew and his elite tennis ability. They hope to also expand their mission to make a difference for people struggling with grief and have a meaningful impact on reducing drunk driving incidents.

It’s been a year since the community lost two of its brightest stars, leaving a hole that can never be filled. Taking it one-day-at–time and remaining close to the sport of tennis here on Long Island, Mitch Hassenbein is doing what he can to keep moving forward, and ensuring that Drew’s legacy lives on.

“I haven’t overcome anything. Every day is a disaster and a tremendous challenge but this is what I’m trying to do to keep going, and trying to give back,” he said. “I have learned so much over the years, and want to help people in any way that I can. It’s about educating both the kids and the parents. I’m no genius, I’ve just been there and done it. I’m happy to be there for them in any way they need. It makes me feel good being able to help out, and parents or kids can call me anytime.”

You can learn more about Drew and the Foundation by visiting