Center building program on the court, in the community
June 29, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Considering Michael Center's former life as a stockbroker, this situation didn't seem so surreal. Because there he was recently, at the Dell complex in North Austin, microphone in hand talking to a room full of engineers, spouting off about market shares and quarterly reports.
"I feel really strongly that what I do isn't that much different than what other people do," Center says.
Center's day job just requires more sunscreen.
He's been the Texas Men's Tennis coach since 2000, and under his direction, the Longhorns have advanced to NCAA postseason play in every year of Center's tenure. UT made its first appearance in the NCAA Championships title match in 2008, and reached the national semifinals in 2006, and, most recently, this past May.
The Longhorns have reached the finals in the Big 12 Championships for four straight years.
In all of that, Center finds satisfaction. But also looks for more.
"We want to have a great team, but also a great program, which entails more than just going out and winning tennis matches," Center says.
And so there Center was addressing the crowd at Dell, which periodically brings in successful local figures to speak to employees. He's in the community, striking up conversations, drawing parallels and finding common ground. He plays in community fundraising golf tournaments, and hosts tennis camps at UT for adults.
Or Center's on a bus in Mexico for three weeks, tracking a recruit. Or sending his assistant, Ricardo Rubio, to England to do the same.
Center runs his program with the diversified wisdom of a CEO. He's interested in marketing and event management at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center, while never allowing his focus to waver from the forehands and volleys on the court.
The results are coming in a variety of areas. In addition to UT's consistency among the nation's elite programs, Center has also coached nine All-Americans. And in June, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced that UT ranked third nationally in postseason attendance at its NCAA first- and second-round matches.
"There are a lot of things that go into building a great program, and I want this program to continue to grow," Center says. "We want to create an atmosphere where people want to come out and watch us play. We want to make Texas Tennis something that people talk about all over the nation.
"We want to make our program recognized with the best. That's my goal. And I'm a lucky guy, because I have a passion for what I do."