This Q&A is part of a series with college tennis coaches asking them to describe their alumni engagement efforts, so that others can learn about its importance and ways it can be accomplished. Now more than ever, former college tennis players should stay connected to their program and their sport. Alums that haven’t joined the College Tennis Alumni Network should do so at www.collegetennisalumni.com.
Today’s Q&A is with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps head men’s tennis coach Paul Settles.
ITA: Paul, can you explain briefly why you think keeping your former players connected to the CMS program is so important?
Coach Settles: For most of our alums, their experience as a member of Stags Tennis was a highlight of their four years of college. I often remind my current players that they probably won’t remember the Econ 50 midterm they took, but they’ll remember every second of being the deciding match on court in a big dual or NCAA match. After they graduate, I think there can be a real yearning to stay connected to the exhilaration of those moments, which were enabled by college tennis and our program. I invite them to engage in mentoring and networking so that relationships between alums and current players will be sustained.
ITA: What are some of the ways you and your staff keep your former players regularly connected to the program?
Coach Settles: We try to communicate regularly through e-mail, text, and social media, keeping our alums updated on important news, upcoming matches and ways to interact live with our current players. We also have a fantastic day of tennis in late January called the Ted Ducey Alumni Match, which typically draws about 40 Stags Tennis alums spanning five decades. The event is named after one of the founding members of CMS’ Athletic Department and one of CMS’ first tennis coaches. It is now a 50+ year tradition at CMS, and during my time it has become a half-day event that starts with a few hours of doubles and ends with made-to-order tacos on the patio of the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.
ITA: Do you typically hold any other alumni event(s) throughout the year? And what about during COVID-19 – have you done anything virtually?
Coach Settles: In addition to the alumni match in January, several of our alums will get on a big group chat for all of our biggest home matches and at NCAAs. With the PlaySight live stream on all of our courts for home matches, these chats turn out some great analysis and commentary, lots of encouragement, and maybe a few expletives. When we travel we also make a special effort to connect not only with Stags Tennis alums, but also other alums from Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College.
ITA: What is your favorite part about these events?
Coach Settles: What I most appreciate is how much these guys like hanging out with one another. Just one example, but for the past four years a large subset of the alums at our alumni match have boarded a bus to Las Vegas to spend the last 18 or so hours of the weekend together there. I also really appreciate how the shared experience of Stags Tennis makes it so easy for our current players and alums to connect with those they might be meeting for the first time.
ITA: If a coach hasn’t spent time connecting with his/her alums, how would you suggest he/she get started?
Coach Settles: Our formula has been simple but effective: plan an alumni match and really promote it. Ours is focused on food, fun, and fellowship, and organized around a few hours of doubles. Next, communicate with your alumni base 4-5 times per year via e-mail: once in the pre-season or fall, 2-3 times during the season and post-season, and once in the off-season.
ITA: What would you tell alums on why they should stay connected and also ways they can help our sport?
Coach Settles: Our alums are very important stakeholders not only within CMS Athletics, but also among the CMS colleges at-large. Their engagement and investment in what we do and how we do it speaks to the importance of college tennis on a campus. Their successes after college are shared by all of us, so “do good things, and make us proud.”
ITA: Have any of your alumni engagement efforts resulted in fundraising successes?
Coach Settles: We have intentionally engaged with our alums in a one-day fundraising event for the past two years, and their generosity has been incredible. Stags Tennis has led all 21 sports teams at CMS in participation and dollars raised over the two years. Outside of this event we don’t really talk about fundraising, but still have an extraordinary cohort of alums who have a passion for projects within our program.
ITA: We know college tennis players go on to do amazing things in the world. Are there any of your alums you want to give a special shout out to on what they have accomplished after tennis?
Coach Settles: Yes! I am incredibly proud of what all of our alums have gone on to do after CMS Tennis, but I have a special place in my heart for two groups: those who have served our country – represented by Ben Hough (CMC ’08), a U.S. Marine and Cobra helicopter pilot – and those who have made tennis their profession either as coaches, pro touring players, or working with a tennis governing body – represented by Steve Poorman (CMC ‘83), Steve Kronseder (CMC ’71), Jack Newman (’83), John Michael Cham-A-Koon (’04), Edward La Cava (’12), Zhenya Pereverzin (’14), Warren Wood (’15), Lestter Yeh (’16) and Skyler Butts (’16).