As a college tennis coach, Scott Howard wears a lot of different hats.
There’s scheduling. Budgeting. Travel arrangements. Recruiting. And fundraising. Lot’s of fundraising.
“I was just at the coaches convention in Naples the last few days, 275 coaches,” Howard said. “A huge segment was on fundraising and how you have to make your program self-sufficient.
“To get your program to the next level, it’s an arms race.”
Howard, a USPTA Elite Professional, is in his first year as head men’s tennis coach at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif. Recruiting for a small school is difficult – they can’t offer athletic scholarships – so Howard gets creative.
“We’re selling them on our great schedule. Play a bunch of matches, more than most junior colleges. Or you’re selling your facilities,” Howard said. “We’re going to do some traveling, come to Orlando, go to Hawaii in 2021. We’re going to LA next year. That gets our recruits excited.”
As a coach, tennis has taken Howard around the country. He started his coaching career in 1994 at a junior college in California, then got a Division I job in Pennsylvania, then made his way to Texas and eventually back to California.
“It was a big grind because I would switch jobs every two years as I moved up the coaching ladder,” Howard said. “Those 12 years felt like 25 because you’re always rebuilding, always starting over. You never saw the fruits of your labor.”
Every stop presented unique challenges. After a few years as the director of tennis at a country club in California, Howard found an opportunity to coach at Holy Names University in Oakland. The school was adding a women’s tennis team ahead of its move to NCAA Division II. It added men’s tennis the following year.
“Our second year we were 33 in the country,” Howard said of the men’s team. “Very few schools in any sport were nationally ranked in their second year, so that was pretty cool.”
In addition to coaching at Mission, Howard teaches tennis to faculty members at Stanford. It’s a different style of coaching focused more on technical improvement, fitness and fun, as opposed to the highly competitive world of college tennis.
With his teams, Howard focuses more on nutrition, improving practice habits and maximizing players’ strengths. Sometimes he has to teach them what it means to be part of a team. But his favorite part is the matches.
“I love competing,” he said. “Practice is good, but it’s not nearly as much of an adrenaline rush as when we’re competing.”
Howard, who played at San Francisco State, still loves competing as a player, too. During the season, he often goes months between days off. But the flip side is that it affords him stretches of time where he can play tournaments, or just travel. He finished 2018 as the No. 11 player in the U.S. Men’s 50 and over division.
“My lifestyle has been around that,” he said. “I don’t know if I could ever have a 9-to-5.”
It’s a lifestyle developed over a lifetime. Howard’s father, Gil, was ranked No. 1 in the world in the Men’s 55 and over in 1994 and has won 12 national championships. His two brothers, Mike and Kevin, were ranked in the top 500 on the ATP tour, and his sister, Susan, played No. 1 at San Francisco State.
After years on the court and with years to go, Howard wants to focus on relationships.
“For me, I want to learn to be a little more of a lasting friend or mentor than maybe I was when I was younger,” Howard said. “I want to grow as a coach, but mainly I want to get better at some of the things that I wasn’t as good at. I was too busy coaching two teams and running around to really get to know them as people off the court. This go-around I’m trying to do more of that.
“Hopefully I can still do some of the other stuff but try not to be all about the wins and losses. Try to do it for the reasons I think all of us get into [coaching]. We want to help grow the game but we also want to help develop men and women. I’m going to focus more on that.”