UT Women’s Tennis Head Coach Prioritizes Psychology to Win Matches
By Madalynn Lambert
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Longhorns women’s tennis team won back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2021 and 2022, and are aiming for a three-peat.
The recent success under head coach Howard Joffe was part of continued growth from making the top 10 in 2019 and rising to fourth in 2020 before reaching number one the past two years.
“We gradually got better. Of course the last couple years, I could never have dreamed of that personally and of course professionally, but each year is independent of itself.” Joffe said.
Now in his eighth season in Austin, Joffe said he has learned key elements and strategies to develop and train a winning team, both physically and mentally. Instead of solely focusing on the player’s performance on the courts, he tries to motivate the team by encouraging them to focus on the psychological effects of the game.
“I think his strength is he pays a lot of attention to what’s inside of you and your mental side of the game,” sophomore Sabina Zeynalova said.
“He really focuses on that in the match, in the practice. He approaches it with a lot of attention. I think that’s what makes him very different from other coaches I have worked with.”
Joffe came to Austin in 2015 from rival Texas A&M, where he served as head coach from 2012 to 2015. The Aggies made the NCAA finals in 2013 but lost the championship to Stanford.
Joffe said his time at A&M was “fantastic,” but he felt a move to Austin would benefit his career.
“To be at UT became an opportunity to add to not just a professional life but a private life. I took it and in retrospect it was the right choice because I met my wife and I am now married in Austin Texas.” Joffe said.
Through his work with hundreds of athletes, Joffe said he found that focusing on each player’s mental health benefits the team culture and will lead them to victory.
“I would say the expectation, the intention, as always is to win the conference, win the NCAA Championship,” Joffe said. “The obstacle is that we have a pretty injured group at the moment, but nothing insurmountable. We are only just getting started.”
The Longhorns are currently ranked tenth in the national ITA. Their next match is against #21 Oklahoma on March 10 at the Texas Tennis Center. The Big 12 Championship will take place April 20-23 in Lawrence, Kansas, and following the NCAA tournament is in May.