CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- In the heat of summer, serenity can be found in the least likely of places. On a hard tennis surface, the heat index can rise almost 20 degrees, magnifying already grueling conditions. The temperature, however, becomes a secondary obstacle when playing the game you love.
On July 29, University of Miami assistant men’s tennis coach Mark Dickson led the USTA Florida Region team against the Texas Regional team on a court whose temperature reached at least 93 degrees. For Dickson, though, the focus was on another aspect of the tournament.
“I am always a tennis fan,” Dickson said. “Every time I go to tournaments, I always find players that I wouldn’t have originally thought existed. Tennis is at its best when families are there together.”
Dickson appeared on the ParentingAces radio show Monday, a forum that gained its roots at the lowest levels. The former blog has spent the past two years building itself into a radio show on the UR10s network, spearheaded by host and mother Lisa Stone.
Stone, whose son also participates in tournaments like the USTA Championship Dickson coached in, asked about Dickson’s USTA coaching experience.
When asked about his role as a mentor to his USTA participants, Dickson responded, “They are under a lot of pressure. Kids are focused on the outcome and we try to help them refocus on the process.”
Dickson, who was a successful college and professional tennis player, understands the mentality needed to reach the top. “Tennis is an extremely difficult game if you focus on winning all the time,” Dickson said. “Ultimately you will be unsuccessful the majority of the time the higher and higher you go. You can be very successful if you focus on the process of improving fundamentals and enjoying the journey, the shared suffering together.”
The third-year Miami assistant also expanded on the state of tennis recruiting, specifically for young student-athletes that hope to develop their game at the professional level.
“Recruiting wise, you have players that have aspirations to play professional tennis,” Dickson said. “You show them the statistics, they see how hard they need to work and they come in with that mindset. They are going to spend the next few years and focusing on their development process.”
When Dickson has a new batch of student-athletes embrace his philosophy, he begins to see the bigger picture. Being a collegiate student-athlete can create a personal divide, but the Miami tennis staff makes sure its players understand both realms are of equal importance.
“Its wonderful for these young men and women, who have these aspirations, to come into a college program with the majority of their education paid for and coaches to help them,” Dickson said. “Tennis is a game, it should be fun. Ultimately, you have to look at your priorities over the long term. “
Following a 13-13 year, the University of Miami men’s tennis team is looking to have a bounce back season. With four seniors and six returning upperclassmen, the team will have its fair share of leadership. Paired with three experienced coaches, the program is poised to rise in the wins category.