Sports Tennis

For first-year head coach, spring offers plenty of challenges


Senior Maria Cardenas will be looking to close out her season on a strong note in the spring season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Houston women’s tennis has had a string of strong seasons in recent years, but first-year head coach Courtney Steinbock has experienced her own share of challenges.

The Cougar had a chance to sit down with Steinbock to talk about the spring season and preparing her team with a new mentality.

The Cougar: How have you enjoyed your first year as a head coach?

Courtney Steinbock: It is a process, so part of it is respecting that process and knowing that it’s going to be a rough ride until we own it. We don’t own it yet. It’s been different because we’ve been injured a lot this last fall and heading into the spring season.

We’ve seen the entire team play now. But that wasn’t the case going into our first match. We hadn’t seen three of them play. Just continue to stay on track with the clean out process and changing the culture of the program, it is a process.

TC: What kind of injuries has the team gone through?

CS: We’ve got surgery, shoulder, chronic hip, all kinds of stuff. 

Some of (the injuries were caused by) technique. We started changing their game a little bit to make sure that injury wasn’t being caused from technique in that process.

The biggest thing that we’re looking for right now is for this team to find themselves, find their game after us having them do so many things that they’re not used to and starting off the year the way we did with so many hard teams right out of the gates and traveling.

TC: As a first year head coach, is there anyone that you go to for advice?

CS: I reached out to the former head coach at Oklahoma State. Him and I have been good friends for a while and I was with him when he started the program at Wichita State, so it’s good to pick his brain. 

You just have to trust the process. Obviously (assistant coach) Jason (Potthoff) has a lot of experience, and him and I talk constantly about it. 

TC: How is the relationship between the teammates?

CS: With a small team like this and (players) that are from different countries, you have some strong personalities. All of them are returners so they’ve all been around each other.

It’s just getting those personalities to not necessarily switch over to a different culture but buying into a different culture — not being a different person but knowing that what’s expected from them now has been completely different than in the past.

Each match that we play I want them to show their true colors of who they really are. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past and what they’ve done with the team before.

TC: Do you see anything in practice that you would like to see your players project into games?

CS: For us, it’s got to be the mentality, the intensity and the focus has got to be the same in practice as it is in the matches.

Because there’s no pressure in practice, we need to be more competitive with each other. Even if it’s in warm up or cross-court rallies, we need to be more competitive in everything that we do.

TC: What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses right now?

CS: They’re a very close-knit team. They’ve had a lot of success in the past so they know what it’s like to be on that stage. It’s our job to help them find that and put them in the right position to be able to have the opportunity to be in that position again.

Our weakness right now is confidence. We’ve played some really good matches and we’ve played some bad matches when we’re kind of just up and down. If they can understand that, we have 15 ranked opponents still so our 0-5 is not defining our season right now.

It’s what we do to respond and move forward that’s going to make the team what we are and that’s what we’re trying to find out. I would just say confidence right now but I think that’s something that needs to be instilled within themselves.

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