Q&A with Patty Fendick-McCain: Part two
This is the second of two installments to help you learn more about the newest member of the Texas Longhorns coaching staff, Patty Fendick-McCain, who takes over the helm of the UT women's tennis program. In part one, Fendick-McCain discussed her move to UT from the University of Washington. In part two, Fendick-McCain details her coaching experiences and what UT fans can expect from the 2005-06 Longhorns.
How do you think your experience as a former two-time NCAA singles champion at Stanford, followed by a successful pro career, benefits you as a collegiate coach?
PFM: "I take my role as a coach a little bit differently than most coaches do. One of my strengths as a player was looking across the net in someone's eyes and having a good feel for the challenge in front of me. By studying my opponent, I tried to pick up her tendencies and study body language all the time. I knew what I was up against after a few games into the match. I try very hard not to lose that as a coach, and that's why I practice quite a bit with my players. I like to do those types of things because you get a much more intense feel for what they can do.
It's a lot different when you're sitting up in the stands looking at X's and O's. When you feel the ball come off their strings, you have a much better sense of what's going on there. I try to keep myself in that player's mindset. I think that helps me empathize with them more, whether they're suffering off the court or maybe over the top one day and they're too jacked up to calm themselves down and win those big points. You have a much better sense if you are in their mindset instead of a coaching mindset."
So, you prepare your players for spring dual-match play by using the fall season as a time for hands-on instruction and work on in-match strategies?
PFM: "Absolutely. Come spring, I don't want them thinking about those things. The fall season is the time to expand your brain and expand your horizons in what you know about the game. That's what I try to do in the fall...learn the game, learn the patterns, learn the flaws. I hate surprises, whether they are birthday surprises or surprises on the court. If you do your homework up front when it's time to play, you will not have to think about in-match strategies because you can go on instinct. You're going to be prepared because you've done all your homework before the match. That's a crucial ingredient around championship time."
Is there a coach on whom you model your coaching style?
PFM: "(Former Stanford head women's tennis coach) Frank Brennan. He is, hands down, the best that ever was and probably the best there ever will be in women's college tennis. He always knew how to motivate his players in crucial times. He always made every player that ever played for him feel like he was emotionally invested in not only their games, but in their lives.
Every one of us always went the extra mile for him because of those qualities. On bad days when you didn't feel like playing and the wind was blowing the wrong way and you were getting bad line calls, he was there and you just never wanted to let him down. Consequently, I took note of a lot of the things that he did when I was a player and I call him to ask questions. He's just incredible. He set the bar so high for everyone else. He is a consummate professional and always a gentleman."
Is there a player on the pro tennis circuit you want your players to emulate?
PFM: "I think, across the board, if you can get your kids to turn on a TV and look at what's out there on the professional level, a lot of the things I'm introducing to them on the court in terms of skill production are easily viewable at that level. I was giving (UT senior) Kendra Strohm a hard time the other day because we were working on a particular body movement, and I said, 'Kendra, did you turn on the TV and watch Lindsay Davenport? She was doing exactly what I was working on with you.'
Just in general, the things I introduce are things that players ranked in the top 50 to 80 in the world are doing. Being a student of the game works at this level. You don't really point to one professional player. There is a standard way to do it to be that good. They all have different strokes, different quirks and different ways they go about things. But, in terms of the way they move, they all have that in common. It's something that most college players and junior players don't have. You learn that if you're good enough and skilled enough to get up to that level and get your butt kicked enough times, you say to yourself, 'What are they doing that I'm not doing?' That's when you figure it out. That's where I come in...I can teach them before they get their butts kicked."
What can Longhorn fans expect from your teams?
PFM: "The fans can expect the same thing they have always expected out of Texas Tennis: a good, hard fight. That's a part of the Longhorn tradition - going toe-to-toe with the opponent and letting the chips fall where they will. When I watched the NCAA team championships last year, the UT players were evenly-matched with their opponents, but because they were from Texas and because they were Longhorns, they fought that much harder. They had that pride in their school, themselves and each other.
These women weren't going to back down from a fight, and that's essentially what it is all about at the end of the year. Who has that drive and who wants to be out there...who wants to mix it up? That's why it is fun to be a part of this program - we have a tremendous group of young ladies who will fight to the end."