Sue Sookiasian took over the Emerson College women’s tennis program on Sept. 11 following the Lions’ home loss against Roger Williams University. Sookiasian, a native of Cohasset, Mass., takes over the team from interim coach Bill Gould, who also coaches the women’s basketball team. Although still winless in four team matches under Sookiasian, the Lions have been competitive in three of them — all 6-3 losses — including a Sept. 14 matchup against New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference opponent Mount Holyoke.
The newest addition to the Emerson athletic department sat down for a formal interview with the Beacon on Sept. 25.
Q: How much coaching experience do you have?
A: I’ve been coaching high school on and off for 10 years. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life. [I] played as a junior, played tournaments, played college for four years, [and then I] played women’s competitive tennis later, after I had my kids. I’ve been a United States Professional Tennis Association [professional coach] for about 11 years now. Tennis has just been pretty much a cornerstone of my life competitively, and career-wise I’ve taught tennis for 15, 20 years on and off. I have two children so I’ve been raising them, but my job outside of my kids has been tennis.
Q: What got you into coaching?
A: My love of the game. I was a [physical education] teacher early on and my connection with kids … I just love to work with kids. Tennis is such a lifetime sport; I just love to impart that to other people.
Q: How did the hiring come together?
A: A good friend recommended me that had been a prior coach here (former assistant softball coach Robert Spofford). I got the call from [interim athletic director Stanford Nance] and came in and interviewed and that was it really. I was hoping this would be a next step for me, collegiate tennis, so when the call came I was totally thrilled. This is what I wanted to do.
Q: What’s your initial impression of your team?
A: They welcomed me right away. The captains, [seniors] Lacey Russell and Savannah Mosser, have been fantastic. They really embraced me coming in. Because I came in a week into the season, I’ve leaned on them a little bit asking them some questions. The team, as a whole, is just a close-knit group of girls. They really lean on one another; they’re supportive of one another. Stan, who hired me, was great. [Interim associate athletic director] Erin Brennen has been a constant source of support. Bill Gould has been just incredible. He transitioned me and I am just very thankful to him; he was so kind and helpful. I feel so supported from them so it has been great, especially since [Emerson] jumped into a new conference this year, there’s some challenges with that. The athletic staff, all the coaches, have been very welcoming and supportive.
Q: What is your coaching style?
A: Watching their matches, I really try to analyze what they’re doing on any given day and try to work with that. It’s always changing in tennis — you can come out one day and play one way and the next day come out and play a different way so I think it just depends upon the day. I’d like to say about the girls, they have been very responsive to me. When I do go to coach them, they really listen to what I’m saying and really try to do the suggestions that I’m making throughout their tennis. It’s been great, I try to be very positive, but firm.
(Sookiasian said that after asking several of her players what they thought of her coaching style, the girls all agreed on “nice, but firm.”)
Q: How difficult was it to take over the team mid-season?
A: The only thing that’s been more challenging is [balancing players’ individual] schedules, trying to work around everybody’s schedules and classes and not having everybody here. We haven’t had everybody together on one day yet. Every time I get in touch with them about a change in the schedule everyone is very responsive and open to changing. It’s been nothing, really, but positive.
Q: What’s your goal for the season?
A: To post a win. We haven’t had a win yet but I think we can get one. As long as I see the kids growing and taking positives away from every match, I’m good with that. It’s not always about winning and losing — if you lose but you play a great match and you‘ve done what you can and you left it all out on the court, I’m OK with that. Play to win, don’t play not to lose.