University of Houston Women Tennis Coach Patrick Sullivan
“I love the job, the relationship with the student athletes, other coaches, with the administration here,” said University of Houston Women Tennis Coach Patrick Sullivan. “I love being outside on a beautiful day like today getting to wear shorts and working with people excited to play tennis,” said Sullivan on a sunny Thursday afternoon.
Words spoken from a man who loves coaching, and his passion for tennis.
Sullivan was born in Bueno Aires, Argentina and his family moved to Houston, Texas when he was 9 years old.
His family came with very little when they first arrived in Houston. “Houston is a special place to me because when we came here to Houston, we came here with nothing,” said Sullivan, “My dad, brother, and I mowed yards and did yard work when we first got here just to make rent.”
His mother earned her college degree from the University of Houston and went on to become a teacher specializing in special education and in English Second Language classes.
His father had a college degree when they first got to Houston, and he would then go on to earning a Master’s Degree as well as a PHD.
Sullivan played tennis when he was in Bueno Aires and continue doing so in Houston.
“Houston has a very good junior tennis system,” said Sullivan. “In northwest Houston where I grew up, every neighborhood has a team, so you would represent your neighborhood and play other neighborhood.”
Sullivan also played in more competitive in junior tennis league in the UTSA (United States Tennis Association).
Sullivan attended Texas A&M University hoping to continue his pursuit of becoming a professional tennis player.
An unexpected calling
“I went to Texas A&M where I really wasn’t good enough to play,” said Sullivan. “I tried but the guys on that team were world class who represented their country, and I couldn’t get in the starting line up,”said Sullivan. “Halfway through college, gave it up and focused on school, graduated and worked in the energy industry after college, and really didn’t touch a tennis racket for five years.”
Sullivan served as a member of Texas A&M Corps of Cadets for four years while also pursued in a law degree.
As his path to become a professional tennis player came to an end, his love for the sport wouldn’t extinguished.
“I was in grad school helping Texas A&M with the men’s team really just to stay in shape,” said Sullivan, “I didn’t have any intention of coaching as a career but I really enjoyed it.”
Sullivan was offered the assistant coaching position at Southern Methodist University while he was still earning his law degree and accepted the opportunity.
Help Along the Way
Sullivan credits many people throughout his coaching experience who have influenced him the most.
“The Athletic Director at Stephen F. Austin Robert Hill, a good man that cared more than just tennis or about wins and losses, a man who really cared about the kids on all of the team and the coaches,” said Sullivan, “He’s a person I respect a lot and still go to for guidance.”
Stephen F. Austin was the first school to offer Sullivan the opportunity to be a head coach and served as their coach from 2010-2012.
“Tim Cass, the first guy I worked for at Texas A&M, I really learned a lot from him about all the different aspects of being a coach,” said Sullivan. “Not just coaching tennis, but all the non-aspect like the management of the team, the relationship with the individuals on the team, fundraising, and getting involved with the community,” said Sullivan.
Tim Cass was the men’s tennis head coach at Texas A&M when Sullivan was helping the team out.
Sullivan also credits Arkansas women tennis Head Coach Michael Hegarty when it came to recruiting, and Auburn Head Coach Lauren Longbotham on how to coach women athletes.
“Mack Rhoades our Athletic Director, he knows a lot of about sports, leadership and management,” said Sullivan. “So he’s someone I go to know for mentorship and guidance.”
The Joy of being a Coach
Sullivan views his job not to just serve as a coach, but to also be a mentor to his athletes.
“The joy of the job for me is a little bit of living vicariously through my athletes now,” said Sullivan, “I could not have tried any harder than I did.” “I was eliminated by talent, but I coach women that have world class talent so if I can get them to try as hard as I did, to understand the game like I do and then take their world class talent and put it use, then that’s fine,” said Sullivan.
“I think my job aside from teaching tennis is to send them into the world with more subsistence than they got here,” said Sullivan.
When it comes to hobbies, Sullivan finds it very tough to be away from tennis and his family.
“You can tell what someone values by what they spend their time and money on,” said Sullivan when addressing his players about what they should values in life.
“I spend my time on my family and team, and I also spend my money on my family and team, so I don’t really have any hobbies,” said Sullivan. “I would say travel would be my hobby but 90% of my travel is through tennis.”