Tennis program without a coach

The tennis program is beginning their spring season without a coach.

Brenton Horne, the former tennis coach, left the program during finals week last semester.

“It just didn’t work out,” said Director of Athletics Robyn Daughtery.

Senior Eric Engstrom is serving as the team’s player coach and Bryan Cole, the resident director of the townhouses, is serving as the faculty advisor.

“It would be really hard to bring someone from outside JBU to come on and take on the program,” said Engstrom, “A player coach was the easiest way.”

Engstrom had been serving as the men’s captain since his sophomore year before taking the position this season as a player coach.

Engstrom has been facilitating practices with sophomore and team captain Cameron McLendon, who coaches tennis at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla. during the summer.

“Cam just knows his stuff,” said sophomore and co-captain of the women’s tennis team Marissa Podgorski.

She also said having Engstrom as the player coach this season felt “natural” because of his experience in the program and his natural leadership abilities.

“It’s been a smooth transition,” said Engstrom.

Two tennis professionals from Bella Vista have also been coming to team practices to provide extra guidance.

“They’ve been a lot of help,” said Podgorski.

Cole said it has been amazing to see the efficiency the tennis pros have brought to team practices.

Before taking the position as faculty advisor, Cole was not involved with the tennis program.

“I don’t have any skills when it comes to tennis,” said Cole, “It’s pretty much a leisure sport for me.”

Cole said he serves as a mentor and spiritual advisor instead of as a coach.

One of the first things he did in this position was to have the tennis team over to his apartment to watch the opening matches of the Australian Open. He was somewhat surprised that almost every player came and stayed for quite a while just to spend time with each other.

“The unity of the team is still there even though the coach is gone,” said Cole.

Engstrom credits this close team bond with the smooth coaching transition.

Cole and Daughtery both said while they wish it had not been under these circumstances, they are glad that they have been able to get to know the tennis players, though it’s under challenging circumstances.

“[Daughtery] has taken full initiation of what needs to be done,” said McLendon.

Daughtery has helped the team order new uniforms and organize their travel schedule.

The team will begin their season on Feb. 10, at Hendrix Invitational in Conway, Ark.