Nelly Ciolkowski blog: What led me to coaching

August 7, 2017 01:00 PM

Nelly Ciolkowski played tennis at Clemson University, where she graduated with a BS in Management and then went on to pursue masters degrees in Communication Arts and Sports Business, while also getting some college coaching experience. Ciolkowski, who is originally from France, received a coaching fellowship to work with USTA Player Development this summer and has been paired with USTA National Coach and U.S. Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi, who will serve as a mentor to her during her time in Orlando. Ciolkowski is blogging about her experiences at the USTA National Campus in a weekly blog for In her latest entry, she writes about the three things that led her to coaching.

By Nelly Ciolkowski

In 2013, I was given the chance to be a graduate assistant for the women’s team at New York Institute of Technology. Knowing that I had just finished my playing career a few months prior to that, I thought it was a great opportunity to still be around the sport that I love while pursuing my master’s degree in Communication Arts. At that point, it was only a part-time job, and I didn’t really think it could lead to anything. But as I transitioned from being a player to a coach and gained more experience, I really started to enjoy being on the other side of the coin.

Nelly-Ciolkowski-4-457x305Being here at the USTA this summer has made me more determined than ever, and I can’t wait to start coaching full-time. A few things that have led me to it:

  • The human element. I’ve had several opportunities to travel to tournaments with young, promising players. Great experiences. I got to spend a lot of time with them on and off court, and that’s when I realized that my role was more than that of a coach. On or off the court, they looked up to me. This inspired me to not only be a good coach to them but also a good role model. Prior to those experiences, I had not thought of this positive impact we, as coaches, can have on the athlete. Realizing this meant a lot to me because it’s fulfilling a purpose in addition to tennis. I loved getting to know them both as a player and person and building a relationship around that. I think that that’s also what it’s about – the relationships. And just to play a small part in their lives is awesome!
  • My passion for the game. Tennis is unlike any other sport. A mix of technical, physical, tactical and mental aspects come into play. You can’t have one without the other three. As a coach, it’s fun to try to balance everything out. Also, I grew up with the game, so, to me, tennis is a lifestyle and a culture. It brings people together, and I think that is great.
  • I enjoy giving. Tennis has changed my life, and I hope I can contribute to improving other people’s lives. When you coach, you are there along the way for the players, have the opportunity to teach not only on court but also about life and build character. This is, in my opinion, a very special role to have.