Alumni assistant coaches bring energy to men’s tennis team

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Assistant coach Patrick Kawka gives a word of encouragement to player Jeremy Bourgeois. (Natalie Bothwell)

Some say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but men’s tennis assistant coaches Patrick Kawka and Michael Eraso would beg to differ. After playing tennis at BYU together, the two are now assistant coaches.

Kawka was on the team from 2010 to 2013, two of those years overlapping with Eraso. He said it’s awesome to be on the same coaching staff now.

“Mikey and I always had good chemistry when we were on the team,” Kawka said. “We had really high energy so one thing we’ve tried to do this year with the guys is bring some energy that I think they’ve been missing for the last couple of years.”

After playing for the Cougars for three years, Kawka left to play professional tennis for a year and hopes to play professionally again.

“I’m hitting in with the guys whenever I get the chance and I’m hoping to play in some pro events this summer,” Kawka said.

Tennis is an expensive sport, and Kawka estimates it takes $120,000 a year to fund a professional career.

“I was high ranked in the NCAAs but because (in tennis) we don’t get recruited straight into a club, it really means nothing. You’ve got to get out there and earn your keep,” he said. In the meantime, he’s back to finish school and “gets to (coach tennis) on the side.”

Ryan Faulkner
The 2011-2012 BYU men’s tennis team. Kawka is shown fourth from the left, and Eraso on the far right. (BYU Photo)

Kawka coached tennis for the two years when he was gone from the program, and now, as a fifth year senior, the NCAA is providing him with a scholarship to be the assistant coach while he finishes his geology degree.

He said he “missed being with the team” and added that coaching is what he likes doing.

Eraso was looking for any excuse to get involved with the team again and was thrilled when head coach Brad Pearce recruited him.

“Coach basically came to me and said ‘Hey we need you, we want any sort of mental edge over Utah,’” Eraso said. “It’s as close as I can get to where I was playing. It’s exciting for me. I’m really having a fun time.”

Current team member Jeremy Bourgeois attributed the teams’ late-February win against Utah to Eraso’s coaching.

“Mikey has been really good for us,” Bourgeois said. “At Utah he helped me and Shane (Monroe) stay on the doubles court as long as possible.”

Although Eraso has been helping predominantly on the first court, Bourgeois said his help has been beneficial for the whole team.

“It’s good because it spreads out the coaches a bit more, gives one-on-one time. (The coaches) can really watch the opponent and see what he does,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois said the real advantage comes from the time the coaches spent as players themselves.

“When (Eraso) payed on the team four years ago he was a great fighter, he just found a way to win,” he said. “He’s got great insight, it’s really helpful to have him on the team.”

Both assistant coaches agreed: There’s an understanding that comes from the shared experiences.

“It’s awesome,” Eraso said. “We understand each other and we know what they’re going through. It’s been really good feeding off each other. We know some of the things we went through we can relate (with) their challenges today.”

Beyond good coaching, Eraso and Kawka said the current roster is a special team.

“The team is looking awesome, I think we’ve had a great start,” Kakwa said. “I think the guys are way more confident now, we’re steamrolling.”

Eraso said he especially loved the team’s heart.

“They have what it takes,” Eraso said.  “They’re grinding out hard matches, they believe in each other, they fight for each other. This team is going to do great things.”

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