To My Second Family:
Thirty years ago, I entered Emory as a freshman two-sport student athlete. A few years later I was honored to be selected as the Head Coach of Emory Women’s Tennis. Now I am retiring after 23 years in that role.
Thanks to a lot of people who patiently shaped me and helped me learn, I basically grew up at 26 Eagle Row. And now, Emory Women’s Tennis is forever important to me. While I am proud of our win percentages and national championships, what I truly value is summarized on a sticky note reminder I keep on my desk: “Your Number One goal is to develop a life-long relationship with each player that can never be broken.”
It took me years to truly understand the meaning of that goal. I spent the first half of my career locked in a results-oriented mindset, as many of us competitive people do. However, I came to understand that my role was to coach, of course, but more importantly, to impact lives and help players improve in aspects of their lives that spanned far beyond the tennis court. To be an Emory Women’s Tennis player is to be someone who can graduate and be successful in whatever it is she chooses to do. Once that became my main focus, coaching became much more rewarding.
Winning four national championships in a row – and others that followed — was rewarding. Finally beating a rival college after losing ten times in a row was also rewarding. Watching my top two singles players AND top two doubles teams compete against each other for NCAA individual titles, after winning the team title 5-0 was really rewarding. But those rewards, as sweet as they were, were fleeting.
The life-long relationships I enjoy with my former players are built on more than winning seasons and shared adventures; they are built on the lessons we learn together…We learned how bad we were at acting when we created the infamous Emory’s Next Top Model video….We learned that when you think you’ve lost the keys to your rental car, you should probably check your assistant coach’s pockets before missing your flight….We learned that by sticking together, we could endure freezing temperatures in a remote hill tribe village in the mountains of Thailand….We learned about perspective when COVID shut the world down…All in all, we learned how to work together through the highs, lows, and everything in between. My players kept me honest, held me accountable, and while they might credit me for shaping them into the women they are today, I credit them with doing the same for me.
Just as my players do when they graduate, I now get to employ everything I’ve learned as I pursue the next step in my career. Relationships will always be at the core of what I do. My business, Bryant College Coaching, consults with student-athletes and their families, helping them navigate the college search and recruiting process. I enjoy serving young student athletes, guiding them to find their best-fit school and team, regardless of sport or level of play. I also hope to work with coaches across the nation, helping them manage the college sports roller coaster the same way my mentors helped me.
The truth is that coaching is challenging! And successful programs need supportive colleagues, fans and parents. Many wonderful parents stepped back to allow me to coach their daughters while stepping up with behind-the-scenes support. I am grateful to them and all our other supporters. I can assure each of them – and everyone else who loves Emory as I do – that Emory Women’s Tennis is in excellent hands. Bridget Harding will not only continue the legacy and strong team culture we have built over the past 23 years, but enhance those efforts. I cannot wait to cheer her on from the sidelines as she leads the Eagles to even greater heights.