Matt Cowley was a Utah Ute for most of his life.
Everything changed in June 2016 when the BYU men’s tennis team announced the addition of Cowley to its coaching staff.
Although he’d be switching out his red uniform for a blue one, the game itself would be nothing new. Cowley got hooked on the sport at an early age and hasn’t looked back.
“My grandfather gave me a tennis racket for my birthday. It was a Wilson black and yellow Hyper Hammer,” Cowley said. “That’s kind of how it started.”
A four-star recruit out of Woods Cross High School in North Salt Lake, Cowley followed family tradition and accepted a scholarship offer to play tennis at the University of Utah.
Cowley was the fourth generation of his family to play college tennis, and the third generation to play tennis at Utah.
Tennis has not only been a way of life for the Cowley family, but also how most of them met their spouses.
Cowley’s grandparents met each other at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Court 9. Cowley’s parents then met one another at the Salt Lake Tennis Club while playing mixed doubles.
Not one to break tradition, Cowley also met his own wife while playing tennis.
“Her younger brother and sister were taking lessons at the time,” Cowley said. “My coach at Utah introduced us and we met on Court 7 at the Eccles Tennis Center.”
Even though Cowley’s family roots are deeply woven into Utah athletics, he knew coming to BYU would be an opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.
Cowley was in the process of applying to graduate programs when he realized he wasn’t quite willing to give up his passion.
“I wasn’t ready to move on from tennis,” Cowley said. “Tennis has been my passion, so I wanted to be close to players that shared the same passion.”
Cowley noticed BYU was looking to hire another men’s tennis assistant coach, so he reached out to coach Brad Pearce.
“Obviously, there were a number of questions that had to be asked and answered appropriately,” Pearce said. “We went through that process and I felt comfortable that Matt would do a good job with us here.”
Before Cowley took the job at BYU, he knew he needed to talk to his family.
“I went to my board of advisor, my grandfather, parents, in-laws and the people closest to me,” Cowley said. “I think all of us, throughout the process, felt strongly that this would be an amazing opportunity and a smooth transition.”
With his family’s approval, Cowley moved his new little family to Utah Valley and started coaching for BYU.
Pearce saw Cowley as an asset, not only because he was already familiar with the current players both regionally and nationally, but he could also jump in and play with the current BYU players. It wasn’t long until Cowley was dedicating all of his time and energy into bringing out the best in his new players.
Only a month into the season, Cowley was faced with a match against his old Utah teammates on his new stomping grounds.
“It was the most anticipated match of the season, for me,” Cowley said. “I wanted our team to play with passion, integrity and honor.”
The Cougars fell to the Utes 4-3, in heartbreaking fashion. But Cowley wasn’t thinking about Utah. He just wanted a win.
“It is never easy to compete against close friends and family,” Cowley said. “The hardest part about the match against Utah was seeing our team fall short of victory.”
Cowley and the Cougars will return to the court on March 3, taking on Utah State in Logan.