For those who think being a tennis coach is easy … think again! Being a tennis coach is a full-time job in which, on top of the obvious time spent practicing, there are countless additional hours spent with parents and college coaches. Then, of course, there’s also the tournaments and travel. One coach who takes these responsibilities very seriously is Mike Kossoff.
Mike grew up in Syosset, N.Y. and went through the rigors of junior tennis, playing in the Eastern Tennis Association (ETA) from the 10 through 18.He went on to be an All-MAC selection at Bowling Green. Now as a coach to some of the best juniors on Long Island, Mike works out of Sportime. He has coached one top 800 player in the world, as well as having coached eight kids to D-1 scholarships and four kids who have won at nationals over his seven years as a coach.
What Mike brings to the court every day is a lot of energy. When others are getting tired, he is just getting started. He instills this in the kids he coaches. His motto of “You will not lose by being outworked” is something he shows by example as he takes part in all of the fitness training with the kids. This is one of the things that allows Mike to have a great connection with his students. He treats them with respect, and in turn, they trust him. They know that if he is hard on them, it is only for their own good.
Kossoff also truly cares about his players. This was evident a few years ago at a National Clay Court Championship match when his player Corey Parr (currently playing at Wake Forest) had a match against current professional and 45th-ranked Sam Querrey. The night before the match, while Corey slept, Mike was a nervous wreck who couldn’t sleep at all. Despite the nerves that Mike may have behind the scenes, in front of his players, he always shows great calm. He tells them, “There’s always a way to win, you just have to find it,” and they believe him and work to find it.
Every day, tennis coaches make sacrifices for their players. For Mike, sometimes those sacrifices can be traveling to places such as Dubai or Venice for tournaments and leaving his wife at home for portions of 18 to 24 weeks a year, and sometimes, those sacrifices go even further and become a bit more comical.
“One sacrifice I had to make for my player was in the middle of the Florida Open,” said Mike. “The weather was close to 100 degrees and my player just looked like he jumped into the pool with the amount of sweat that was on his clothing. He eventually started to cramp up as the match went on. Of course there was no trainer on-site, so as the coach, I was allowed to go over and help him out during an injury timeout. He asked me to change clothes with him because he ran out of shirts. So on a hot sticky July summer day, I had to switch clothes with him just so he could continue. At that time, I realized putting on my player’s sweat-soaked shirt was about to be added to my job description.”
Mike’s job description continued to expand at another tournament a few months later. “As players move on later in the tournaments, more and more college coaches start to come and watch matches. I never knew that ‘stylist’ would end up being part of my job description, but every morning, I had a normal looking tennis outfit laid out on my player’s bed instead of the wrinkled, dirty and stained outfit that he was planning on using that day.”
All in a days work for a tennis coach.
Mike has been fortunate enough to be able to work with great players through his seven years as a tennis coach .He has learned from other great coaches, more recently, from Lawrence Kleger at Sportime, and as a junior player, Keith Kambordian at Bethpage Park. So far, it has been a developing player who has left possibly the largest impression on him. When asked for his coaching highlights, one that quickly came to mind was that of a 10-year-old who was about to quit the sport. Mike wasn’t about the let that happen, and he convinced him not only to continue, but to strive to be the best tennis player he could be. That player is now ranked in the top 60 in the country in the boy’s 12-year-old division, as well as a better person for the lesson that was learned in not quitting. The letter he received from that child’s mother let Mike know how important his job really was, aside from just how good a player someone becomes. Mike does a fantastic job of helping his players develop as people, not just players.
Mike is well-respected by college coaches and by his students. He gives his all each day and that is what he requires from his players in return. He balances a coach/friend relationship during the many hours of training and travel. Mike and his students both put in a lot of hard work. In the end when he gets that call from a student who has moved on to college and is playing at his/her school seeking advice before their college matches, they both know all the hard work was well worth it.