#ProCanes Report: Josh Cohen
Josh Cohen is a decorated alumnus and former tennis player of the University of Miami. He came here as a highly accomplished junior player, finishing his career ranked top 20 in the world. While here, he became an All-American and Dean’s List honoree, as well as setting the mark for most career wins in UM history. After graduation he worked as an assistant coach for the University of Pennsylvania tennis team, played World TeamTennis for the Delaware Smash and Philadelphia Freedoms, and is currently the head coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms. In addition to his job as coach of the Freedoms, Cohen and Jarrett Chirico have founded the Chirico Cohen Tennis Academy where they coach and train more than 150 top ranked youth in the Philadelphia area.
HS.com: What did playing at UM teach you that has helped you in your career as a player and coach in professional tennis?
Cohen: First off, Mario [Rincon, the head men’s tennis coach] was instrumental in my career there. Also just being a UM student-athlete forces you to keep a balance on both academics and athletics. But I’d say the most important thing is you get to go out there, work hard, and achieve your goals.
HS.com: What would you say your favorite memory of your time at UM was?
Cohen: I would probably say beating Virginia on the road. I think they were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the country, had around 40 consecutive ACC wins, and we beat them 4-3 on the road. But there are so many memories: qualifying for national indoors; my [doubles] partner in my senior year, Luigi D’Agord, qualified for NCAA All-American that year. But that University of Virginia win on the road still stands out.
HS.com: Have you been able to keep up with the UM tennis team over the years after graduating?
Cohen: I do keep in contact with Mario still. Mario has helped me so much, I couldn’t have asked for a better coach in college tennis. I know they had big wins this past week against Wake Forest and NC State, which is always important—it helps keep the team motivated.
HS.com: So now to transition to your current profession: How do you think the new players the Freedoms drafted will mesh with the players returning from last year?
Cohen: Two of the girls are coming back, with Victoria Duval and Liezel Huber. Liezel is ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles, and is one of the best doubles players of all time. I’m also really excited about the new players. Marcelo Melo is ranked No. 5 in the world in men’s doubles and he reached the finals of Wimbledon, which is always a big plus. And then we have a singles player Frank Dancevic, who used to play Davis Cup for Canada, and was a top 60 player in the world. One of our marquee players, Victoria Azarenka, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world. Any time we can get someone like her on the team, it will provide a big spark.
HS.com: As a coach, how difficult is it to adjust your coaching style to fit the new talent that comes in every year?
Cohen: It’s tough. You always try to protect some of the players who played last year, because you want to have some form of continuity. World TeamTennis is a really quick season, it’s very high paced, high action and it’s really important to mesh, so you always want to try have some of the players who were on the team come back.
HS.com: What are you looking forward to most as the new season approaches?
Cohen: I would say everybody is really excited. I’ve known Frank Dancevic for a couple years, we have two girls returning, and Marcelo is ranked top five in the world in doubles. I think our team is as solid as anyone in the whole league, and TeamTennis matches are so close that anybody can win any given night, but I’ve never felt as confident as I have with this team coming into the year.
HS.com: You mentioned Victoria Azarenka, ranked No. 2 in the world. What are you looking forward to most about working with a player that is so accomplished?
Cohen: Obviously you can learn from anybody, but having someone who has won Grand Slams makes it a privilege for me to go out there and work with them. It’s one of those experiences people can use their entire life to look back on, and it’s invaluable to have her on the team.
HS.com: How has your experience been working alongside a tennis legend like Billie Jean King?
Cohen: She’s such a sports icon, as the owner of the team she’s given me the opportunity to go out and coach, and she’s trusted me with her team. It means the world to me. I couldn’t ask for anything more. She’s one of those people that no one thing can hold her down, she’s always trying to create new opportunities for everyone. It has been very special getting to know her over the last couple of years.
HS.com: Does she ever give you advice as a coach?
Cohen: Oh of course, she is always encouraging me. She always has ideas, and she lets me coach the team as well, but she’s always there supporting the team. The players also like playing for her as an owner, which is always an added bonus.
HS.com: What about your experience running a tennis academy has been so rewarding?
Cohen: It’s great giving back to the game from the ground up, as well as hopefully they develop into Division I athletes or professionals.