Ask the Experts
Countdown: Double Coaching Duties
by Christine Gray, 8 April 2013
Special from Donovan Tennis Strategies
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Recruits should consider many factors when determining what college and college tennis program best suits them. One important factor is the coach. Here we delve into a somewhat common situation at programs in all three NCAA Divisions and in the NAIA: coaches who are the head coach for both the men's and women's programs. We asked some coaches with dual responsibilities to outline the positive features of such an arrangement.
Q) Sometimes, prospective players may sense drawbacks to a program that has a shared coach between the men's and women's teams, such as shared time and attention. However, are there unique benefits to such a situation that players may not initially consider?
Gary Glassman, Stony Brook men and women, Division I
Benefits include both teams being able to travel together quite frequently. That always creates a built-in cheering section when we're on the road. I also like to tell recruits that we have 2 full-time coaches to help and assist them in their college career. Some programs with one coach don't have an assistant at all or some might just have a GA. Additionally, there is a lot of synergy between the two programs as we will sometimes integrate practice, conditioning and lifting. - Coach
Bob Huckelbury, Arkansas Ft. Smith men and women, Division II
The positives far outweigh the negatives in my opinion, at least for the player. In my opinion, the best thing is that the men and women form one large group that supports each other on and off the court. They develop strong friendships and hang out together in their off time. They help each other with class work, often tutoring each other. Practicing and traveling to the matches usually together makes for a fun group to be around. For the women, it's a great thing for the #1 girl that's too good for the others to have a guy to push her and play sets against. All our group functions, meetings and community service projects are done together.
Simon Earnshaw, Armstrong Atlantic men and women, Division II
I think if a coach shows the ability to be successful with both programs and isn't compromising one in favor of another that there's got to be merit in the process or culture of that program potentially above and beyond a single coach situation. Obviously there will be some shared time, but it's important to understand the context of this time and what setting it's in. Certain aspects cannot and shouldn't be shared; however, others benefit from there being different athletes around not just for comparison's sake, but also for keeping things fresh. Most players grow up in a culture where Men's & Women's Tennis exist together. Although many schools have both Men's and Women's Tennis, I think there can be much more unity when there's a shared coach and this can provide an ideal situation for a better atmosphere and shared experience which ultimately provides a benefit that's difficult to achieve when two programs coexist, rather than share.
Paul Gastonguay, Bates men and women, Division III
I believe that all successful programs share some common threads. The coaches and players must share a passion for excellence. The team needs to have a healthy culture in which everyone works and sacrifices for each other. Coaching two programs is no different but it does give me the unique opportunity to grow this culture across two teams. The shared philosophies and approaches create a strong bond between the men's and women's teams. They inspire and support each other on the court, in the gym and around campus. Both teams also travel together on Spring Break and a few times during the season so our teams become very close.
Lynn Miller, Wheaton men and women, Division III
Co-ed practices, when we choose to conduct them, are a great benefit. My top women have the benefit of practicing against stronger players while the men get the opportunity to work on their consistency and playing more tactical points instead of always relying on their power. I find that the women on the lower end of the ladder also request to practice against the men when they see the stronger women doing it, so it is a motivator for many of the women. For my more secure men, they enjoy helping the women's team and practicing against them as long as it is not every day. They need to prepare themselves to compete against the big servers in a faster paced game (that they will see in men's matches). Other advantages include those associated with scheduling. I don't have to check with another coach when scheduling facilities and have some room for creativity - like co-ed matches where the men and women play at the same time. Finally, if it's done right, both teams are like having one big family and both the men and women love the camaraderie and support they receive from one another. It is, however, like having two children, and a coach needs to be careful not to show favorites and to treat each team equitably.
Dave Paschal, Embry-Riddle men and women, NAIA
Two teams under one coach creates a bigger, more diverse family that increases a player's networking, resources, relationships, opportunities, etc. It gives the team a broader band of expertise in academics that can help each other in areas that one may struggle, i.e. tutoring. When doing fund raising events for large groups, the numbers of two teams help tremendously. Pooling resources for smaller budgeted programs can benefit to supplement in areas of need, giving greater flexibility with budget utilization.