Any great leader will tell you you’re only as good as the team that surrounds you. The old adage couldn’t be more true for Cory Brooks, the ITA Senior Director of Championships, Rankings & Membership, and his staff.
Brooks relies heavily on his team consisting of Caroline Eberhart, Cody Johnson, and Justin Cerny.
“The demands of our job require this to very much be a team effort,” said Brooks, who has held his position with the ITA since 2014. “This is the most difficult job I’ve had. The multitude of areas we cover from championships, rankings, memberships, rules enforcement; they require such a wide variety of skills sets, whether it’s multi-tasking or organization, leadership, managing people. And really of anticipation of the unknown. We’re working on a list of things we’re trying to accomplish, then there are those things that pop up that you don’t expect that you have to deal with that are time sensitive.”
The 44-year-old Phoenix resident Brooks added: “It takes skilled and special people to do these jobs and we have three really special ones. I really feel like when people leave their jobs for other opportunities outside of the ITA, they are leaving with so much more knowledge and experience and a variety of new skill sets that are useful not just within college tennis, but in everyday aspects of life. It’s a great training ground.”
One of the goals of Brooks’ staff is to continually work on technology challenges, and making the coaches’ primary interaction with the ITA more efficient and user friendly. “We hope to institute a change in the way coaches submit their tournament results to the ITA this fall that will accomplish that goal,” Brooks said.
Before coming to the ITA, Brooks served as Owner, President and Director of Tennis for Premier Tennis, Inc., an adult and junior tennis academy and retail business based out of the H-E-B Tennis Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. In addition to his duties at Premier Tennis, Cory also served as manager of the H-E-B Tennis facility, a 20 outdoor/three covered court facility that hosted over 20 major tournaments each year.
Prior to 2007, Brooks worked as Director of Operations/Head Coach at the Denton Di Laura Tennis Academy, also based out of the H-E-B Tennis Center in Corpus Christi. He co-founded the academy in 2001 along with Steve Denton, current Head Men’s Tennis Coach at Texas A&M University and Carlos Di Laura, former Pepperdine standout and Peruvian Davis Cup Captain.
Denton was one of Brooks’ first coaches as a junior player growing up in Texas, and the two still remain great friends. Brooks said he fell into the trap many juniors experience, which led him to walk away from the game at age 18.
“I was one of those kids who got to the age of 18 and made the mistake of playing too much tennis in the juniors that I had quite a bit of burnout,” Brooks said. “I had grown up in a Texas Longhorn family and I wasn’t good enough to play there but at the same time I couldn’t see myself not attending there so I got into the Business School in Austin and went there.”
“Not playing college tennis allowed me to take a break from the sport for a while and then re-enter the sport because I had that break.”
Brooks’ group oversees more than 160 ITA sanctioned events annually, and that number will continue to rise. Brooks said his team is close on naming a site for the inaugural Division II Indoors Nationals in 2020.
“I personally think college tennis is in a good place,” Brooks said. “I think the success the college players have been having on the pro circuit is creating a lot of momentum and publicity for our sport. I think that’s been a really important development.”
Brooks knows the Division I teams will always get the most attention and the majority of the press coverage, but his team is determined on improving the experience and raising the profile of Division II, III NAIA and the Juco colleges.
“We’ve put a lot of work into the Division III National Team Indoors,” Brooks said. “We hope to have a Division II National Indoors in place in 2020. We are in the process of expanding the draws for the ITA Cup, which serve as the fall singles and doubles national championships for the small colleges.”
Not only is the college game on the rise, so is the relationship between the three groups that have such a big part in the game thriving. “Between the ITA and the NCAA and the USTA, I hope our working relationship continues to improve,” Brooks concluded. “Because I think when that relationship is strong between those three, college tennis really benefits. I think the sport is in a good place, and we’re certainly trying to do our part.”
— By Steve Pratt