As if the rigors of being a D-I college tennis coach aren’t enough, imagine trying to get through a weekend away from campus without the use of a smartphone. North Florida head women’s coach Audra Cohen faced that situation while in Atlanta for a fall tournament with her young team.
Cohen had lost her iPhone somewhere between Jacksonville and Atlanta and even though she was able get a replacement while in Georgia, she said there were a few nervous moments.
It’s one of many stressful situations a second-year coach can face, but it nothing that this former NCAA singles champ and WTA player can’t handle.
In fact, her team appears to be taking on the personality of this young coach as they more than held their own against more experienced teams like Georgia State, UAB and Emory at the recent Georgia State Invitational.
Cohen said she’s happy with the squad she’s putting out on the court this fall and that should carry over to the spring.
“I’m happy with the team this year, we added two Brazilians last January and they will help us right away.”
After watching her team myself, I can away impressed with the depth she has for a smaller D-I school facing all sorts of challenges.
I (have) a new freshman from Costa Rica (Mariella Calderon) who’s 17 but stepped up in big moments (in Atlanta),” Cohen added. “I feel good things are to come.”
The good things will end up being the result of a lot of hard work by Cohen herself. It’s a small program in a small conference, so it’s a different experience for someone who once played at a Big 10 school and then transferred to Miami where she won her NCAA title.
“You have to have your hand in everything, or nothing will get done,” admitted Cohen who before coming to North Florida served as an assistant at Wisconsin. “I’ve taken ownership of every aspect of the program.”
Cohen says another difference she notices now being at a smaller school is that the players really appreciate the hard work everyone from the administration on down puts into the program.
Cohen offers many things to a young player looking to find her way in the competitive world of college tennis. One would be, her experience with being a transfer herself.
“I look at a transfer as a way where you can change schools so your skills and experience can be better utilized,” explains Cohen after pondering the question. “We have a sophomore transfer coming in from Binghamton, and that is the case with her.
At a school like North Florida, Cohen says transfers aren’t a luxury, they are a necessity. She says she stays away from setting results-oriented goals, but if they are to win their conference and make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, a transfer might make all the difference.
Cohen also says she seems to have her player’s attention when she tells the occasional war story from her college career or her time spent on the WTA Tour.
“It’s one of the few times I have silence in the van or while eating,” joked Cohen.
Cohen says her stories don’t focus on her wins and triumphs, but about how difficult it was and how she learned from a loss. Cohen says she gets her players seem to relate and are motivated by that.
Since she isn’t that far removed from being a player herself, Cohen said she it was fantastic to see college players, both men and women having success at the U.S. Open. She said she was inspired to see the support the college players were receiving.
Cohen’s playing career had many highlights and she said it is fun to look back every now and then. She holds a win over the surging Varvara Lepchenko who now is ranked in the top-20 in the world. She even joked that maybe she should get back out there and start playing again.
And of course, the 2007 NCAA singles title while at Miami.
She may now reside at a school a few hours north of Miami, but to her the philosophy remains the same.
“I tell my players to get better in everything we do every single day,” offers up Cohen. “Don’t waste a minute and get something done.”
She’s getting something done at a growing program in the Atlantic Sun Conference, and she’s enjoying every minute of it. As long as she doesn’t misplace another iPhone.
“My players would really give me a hard time about that,” admitted Cohen.
For more information on the Ospreys and the women’s tennis program at North Florida check out their website.