Sussman Leads Tennis Program to a New Beginning

Gary Sussman, newly promoted to the Director of Tennis at Marist, has welcomed new challenges in his first semester coaching both the men’s and women’s tennis teams. In starting his position, Sussman was tasked with trying to balance his time between both of the teams and developing a more wholly cohesive program overall.

Since he inherited the men’s schedule from their former coach, Sussman initially struggled to balance the time that he spent with both teams at tournaments. The teams would frequently have tournaments on the same day in different locations, making it difficult for the coach to decide which team to travel with. Once this semester is over, though, Sussman feels that there should be less of an issue with his availability because he will be able to make both schedules. In addition, he will have hired assistant coaches by that point to ensure that both teams will never be without a coach’s guidance. “We are like a tech startup; there will be some bumps along the way but it will lead to continued success,” Sussman said.

In regards to unifying the teams, Sussman’s goal is “to put the women on equal footing to the men.” He is aiming for a level of parity between the two teams now that they are operating as one program. Ultimately, Sussman wants the women’s team to be elevated to the level that the men’s team has been playing at over the past few years.

“The men’s team has been dominant for a long time, while the women have had a higher rate of coach turnovers and that has hampered their ability,” Sussman said. “As a team you can’t strive if you’re constantly changing coaches because you’re always having to prove yourself to someone new.” With this change in coaching, he hopes that the two teams will have more continued and long term success on both sides.

Sussman’s players have been embracing the changes and have flourished under Sussman’s leadership. Sophia Moeller, a senior and captain of the women’s team, has had three different coaches in her four-year Marist career, and believes that so far Sussman has done the best job out of any of them. “I was a bit skeptical at first because his background isn’t in coaching. And even though his coaching experience isn’t vast, he makes up for it with his dedication to the team and finding different drills and other exercises to do,” Moeller said.

She initially was concerned about Sussman taking over the coaching duties for both teams, but so far he has made sure that nobody feels overlooked. “I think that last year we had a sense that the coach of the men’s team was going to retire, and we wanted Gary to stay just our coach but it turned out that there’s nobody better to take on the responsibility than him,” Moeller said. “He is able to pick and choose where he goes each weekend because we are on two totally different schedules, but nobody feels left out.”

On the men’s side, senior captain Max Darrington agreed with much of what Moeller said. “We’ve been playing more with a sense of freedom and doing things because we want to, which hasn’t always been the case with our team,” Darrington said. “Gary also isn’t just worried about how we are on the court, he also worries about how we are as students and people.” Darrington also agrees that this coaching change has developed a relationship with the women’s team that didn’t traditionally exist in the past.

The transition period appears to be over. With a dedicated and confident Gary Sussman at the helm, both the men’s and women’s teams look to flourish in the years to come.

Edited by Meaghan Roche & Will Bjarnar

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