Life as an Assistant Coach

This has been one of the most gratifying years of my life, which is honestly a shock to me because I am not playing tennis competitively (the way I used to identify myself in the past).

I was always Suzie “the tennis player” or referred to as the girl on the tennis court. So, when I decided to become the Assistant Women’s tennis coach at Cal Poly State University, I never realized how much growing I would do as a person. But working with the team has taught me so much about myself,  in addition to working with such motivated ladies, and seeing them develop and grow into better tennis players and human beings. As a 23-year-old Assistant Coach, I have been given responsibilities that have challenged me to grow up quicker than I would have imagined, looking back to just last year as I was a player on this team. It has been an inspiring process and I want to share the experiences with other people who love tennis and are interested in learning about college tennis, so from now on until the season ends, I will keep you updated on my journey as an Assistant Coach.

With the season underway, life has been very busy. The Cal Poly Women’s tennis team, currently ranked 66 in the nation, have been traveling and on the go almost every weekend. We are 5-3 in dual matches, which is excellent considering our schedule. In the past month we have played 3 top 10 schools in the nation, including the past NCAA champions # 1 ranked Stanford, # 5 ranked Cal Berkeley, and #7 ranked UCLA. Most schools and teams would be intimidated with such a tough beginning season, but I believe our girls are thriving. Although we have lost all three of those matches, we have gained so much experience from it. I have learned so much from our players, including their resiliency, competitiveness, and their desire to improve. For the Cal Poly Mustangs, we have one goal this year: to be the most improved team in the nation. We may not have the talent that those top schools have, but we do have the work ethic and the love for the game. With this being said, I believe we can truly continue improving all season and become the most improved team out there.

In order to continue to improve, our girls strive to have consistent ACE scores (Attitude, Concentration, and Effort), a concept taken from our sports psychologist Jeff Trouche. It may seem like a simple plan, but to bring great attitude, 100% focus, and putting everything you have in each practice, lift, or match is very difficult. With such a young team this year (5 freshman, 2 sophomores, 1 junior, and 2 seniors) we try to focus on the basics each and everyday. How can we come out to practice with tons of energy, lots of vocal support, and ultimately get one day better everyday? In the matches so far, I realize the girls are incredibly tough and are doing so many things well. The challenge now is to play one more point tougher each game, as well as improving the basics — better first serve and return percentages. These subtle changes are going to add up and help us continue to thrive.

I know the season has started great and we are all motivated. The team is looking forward to continue to grow as tennis players, tennis coaches, as a family, and overall, as better people.

Living the dream,

1 Tournament…1 Title!

February 14, 2011

The first tournament back since the knee injury…and a tournament win! This past weekend, my doubles partner Trevor Dobson and I won the Irvine Open doubles title, defeating Julian Barham and Darren Yates in the final, 5-7 6-0 6-1. Trevor and I didn’t play our best tennis throughout the tournament, but we played well when we needed to and showed tremendous resiliency under pressure, which I believe was the key to our successful weekend.

We were broken early on (in the first game) during the final, and struggled throughout the first set. Almost every one of our service games they were getting break chances, and other than the first game we were just barely holding our serve. We battled our way back to 4-4, but a couple of loose points and bad bounces later and we had let the first set slip away 5-7. However, Trevor and I both felt good about the way we finished the set, and felt that we were starting to sink our teeth into the match a bit. We were starting to get a feel for our crafty opponents, and were figuring out ways to put some service holds together.

After an easy hold in the first game, we broke and held easily and were up 3-0 in the second set really fast. We used the shift in momentum to get another break, and just rolled from then on. My partner and I both started serving and returning extremely well, and our opponents couldn’t counter. Trevor and I could have easily let our frustrations take over after we lost the first set, but the positive energy that we drew on from climbing back into the match after our early struggles was definitely what allowed us to turn the match early in the second, regain momentum, and ultimately ride it to victory.

Looking ahead, I’ll make my last trip up to San Luis Obispo this week before heading off to Canada next Wednesday. I have been serving really well the past couple weeks, and I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable with my movement and point construction as I continue to gain confidence in my knee. I will have my last physical therapy appointment on Wednesday and then head up to SLO shortly after that for some last-minute tune-ups before I hit the road. Stay tuned for updates as I get ready to return to the tour in a couple weeks! Thanks for reading!