2019 Professional Coaching and Performance Analytics Fellowship blog

July 2, 2019 08:26 AM

By Jamie Barajas

As a kid, I was very energetic and was always either playing soccer or tennis until one day my father made me choose one or the other. I chose tennis, since my cousins and family all played tennis. I was about 3 years old when my mom and I would drop off my two older sisters at school, and then we would go to the park to play tennis. We ended up taking tennis so seriously that my dad built a tennis court in our backyard. He would even take days off from work or come home early just so we could train.
When I was younger, I had many different coaches, and I feel like there is still a lot to learn about different styles and coaching philosophies. I like that there are different levels of tennis players you can specialize in, such as ITF juniors, pros, etc.
The main reason why I got into coaching was my love for the game. I love competing for every point; it gives me adrenaline all throughout my body. For me, it’s not just win or lose, you’re creating friendships. You never know, you may play doubles with your current opponent in the future. Catching up with all my friends at tournaments and dual matches was always great.
Another reason I want to get into the coaching profession is because my dad used to give lessons and coach high school tennis. Growing up, I used to watch my dad coach tennis, and he would coach with such great enthusiasm. This made me realize how much passion he had for the game of tennis and that I might one day want to go into a career in coaching. Ever since I was young, I always looked up to my dad. He made a tremendous amount of sacrifices, and he was such an inspiration to me.
Coaching has always been something very unique to me. You’re not just helping the player develop on the court, you’re also helping them grow off the court.


By Leah Bush

It’s not false that everything and nothing led me to coach tennis. Had I chosen gymnastics over tennis, I almost certainly wouldn’t have become a tennis coach. Had I not been fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by tennis courts in South Florida, the same is true. Had Serena not been on TV, had college tennis not worked out, had a prehistoric butterfly flapped its wings slightly differently...you get my point.

But there also wasn’t a moment when the sky parted and bestowed upon me a basket of fresh tennis balls and told me to coach. No epiphany. Not even a can of tennis balls from the sky!

Instead, all I have is a gradual story of growth and gratitude, a story of learning to use tennis as a tool rather than only as an end to which to apply other tools. In a sense, tennis is a continuous cycle of reflection and adaptation, reflection and adaptation, and reflection has given me a glimpse at the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of coaches I’ve worked with. Gratitude drives me to give back some of that thoroughness and thoughtfulness by giving forward, passing to the next generation of tennis players all that I’ve learned from coaches and teachers past. True to form, to act on reflection requires adaptation. The most powerful lessons I feel driven to share are the ones about working alongside others in pursuit of something bigger. In this process, every interaction with players is a mini adaptation opportunity to learn about each player’s values, strengths and goals as we create paths from the first two to the last.

And that’s what excites me most about the never-ending process of being a tennis coach—that it’s chock-full of opportunities to grow and learn for player and coach alike, reflecting and adapting in the process. To do so in the context of a sport I love while honing on-court weapons as much as character growth on and off the court is more than enough to lead me to coach tennis.


By Nick Castro

I didn’t pick up a tennis racket until I was 15 years old. My dad always dreamed of me being the next star quarterback for a NFL team until after my freshman year of high school, I decided to give up football. Late to the party? I wouldn’t say so. I remember being invited to play tennis one day and after that day, the rest was history.

But what got me into coaching tennis? Since I started late, I just had this burning desire to be great at this sport, but what I didn’t know was that I would be doing it as a coach and not a player. I got the opportunity to play college tennis, but with nagging injuries it was tough for me to compete consistently throughout my four years in college. While I was recovering from injuries, I had a lot of time off, so I thought to keep myself busy I would find work on the tennis court. That’s when I met a man that would change my life. His name was Brad Stine.

Brad gave me the opportunity to work for him at his tennis academy with some of the best junior tennis players in the country. I had the pleasure to work for him for 5 years until eventually taking over his tennis academy. Because of Brad, I fell in love with coaching tennis so much that during my time in college, I eventually switched my major from Civil Engineering to Kinesiology with an emphasis in Coaching. He taught me every aspect of being a tennis coach. From being professional to teaching kids to preparing them for the future. After working with Brad, I decided that I wanted to get into coaching college tennis because the joy of being on a team and helping to build a team culture drives me every day. I know that I am impacting their lives and preparing them for the future.

I love coaching tennis; it brings joy to me when I see a kid hit the ball over the net for the first time or see a college player clinch the match while feeling the weight of their team on their shoulders. In
the end, it’s not just about the development of the player, but the person.


By Aslina Chua

There wasn’t a clear cut reason as to why I went into coaching. And with medical school on the way, it was as if medicine and tennis were built to be two chapters in the same book, where the understanding of one aided the comprehension of the other. And as much as I had tried to focus on one chapter more than the other, page after page led to the same conclusion; I knew that I would never a good enough coach if I didn’t understand how the body worked, and would never be a good enough doctor if I didn’t understand how movement affected the body.

But being a coach goes beyond mere understanding. Understanding is akin to the hook, where the quest of knowledge becomes the ascend. I have so much more to learn, such a long way to develop in coaching, that in all reality I refuse to let go. Better yet, I am forced to simplify my thoughts and all that I learn into the simplest, most fundamental idea so that it could be taught with clarity. The challenge and the gratification of the task drives me forward.

Perhaps the peak of the plot and the most important reason as to why I went into coaching was that tennis opened so many doors in my life. It’s because of this sport that I got my education. It’s because of tennis that I found my home. And it is because of tennis that I stumbled about all the wonderful figures who would make the biggest impact in shaping my character. And as the journey continues (both on and off the court), it only feels right to pay it forward.


By Kevin Huang

Frankly, tennis was not part of the plan. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in Materials Science Engineering. The thought has always been that I would be an engineer just like my dad - he actually also studied Materials Science Engineering. That simple assumption that I’ve had for pretty much my whole life probably is what kept me in the engineering program throughout the whole time, but I always had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that that was not where I belong.

If not engineering then where? I’ve always loved tennis, although it was more of a hobby than anything else. It was not until recently that I looked at the game from more of a professional point of view and as a full-time career option. Once that thought first entered my mind, it felt like the most natural thing to do. I moved around a lot as a kid, but tennis was always there to give me something to do, a way to meet people, and, most importantly, a way to make new friends. With everything that the sport has given me, I hope to be able to spread the game to more people across the country and the world.

Fortunately for me, it was right around this time that I saw a posting on the USTA Careers page for the PD Performance Analytics Fellowship. This sounded like the perfect marriage of my technological background and tennis, and it has turned out to be just that. My experience thus far with David Ramos, Geoff Russell, and the rest of the staff in the Performance Lab has allowed me to be useful with my technological inclinations for applications in the sport that I love. It has been a genuine honor to be able to experience and be apart of the growing tennis analytics field, and I hope to be apart of it for a long time to come.


By Rachel Pierson

I grew up playing tennis along with other sports like volleyball and soccer.  However, as the travel team schedule picked up I chose tennis. My father was a small D3 college men’s and women’s tennis coach and that’s where learned to play tennis in a college team environment.  

After solely focusing on tennis, I started playing full-time and competitively. This is when I first learned about the impact of coaching. My first coach was a tough Australian who taught me how to push myself mentally and physically. Then I started working with other coaches who had a softer approach and helped with my technique and footwork. Both styles and coaches allowed me to grow as a tennis player and as a confident person.

I wanted to pursue the next level of training and competing so I moved by myself to an academy in Austin, Texas after my sophomore year of high school, .  There I worked with Grant Doyle and other amazing coaches. Being there on my own without my family was difficult but my coaches became my mentors and role models. They helped me on and off the court and encouraged me to communicate, be proactive and be my own advocate. Developing these skills in high school helped me succeed in college and in life. Tennis and the opportunities it provided drove me to become an independent, social and responsible person at a young age. I would not be the person I am today without tennis and the coaches I was fortunate enough to learn from.

I knew I wanted to get into collegiate coaching after competing for Texas A&M and finishing my collegiate career as a 3x All-American. My collegiate career and overall experience in school was greatly impacted by my college coaches and team. I was a happier person in life when I had a positive and productive relationship with them. College tennis was a special experience for me. So I decided I wanted to create a successful team environment at top tier university, this time as a coach. That’s what led me to be a volunteer assistant for a top tier coach, Laura Granville at Princeton University.