Jackrabbit Spotlight with Michael Engdahl
Michael Engdahl took over the South Dakota State tennis program on June 9, 2011, after working the prior two years as an assistant for retired head coach Don Hanson. In his two years as an assistant, Engdahl focused primarily on the men's team and coached them to their most successful season in team history during the 2009-10 season He also coached a total of three all-Summit League players during his time as an assistant.
In a short time you have gone from being an SDSU player, to an assistant coach, to now the head coach. Can you talk about that and how the transition has gone?
So far it has been an awesome transition. I feel I have a very strong understanding of what needs to be done to get this program to the next level because I have been involved with it at so many different angles. I know what it feels like to play for the Jacks, assist for the Jacks, and now coach the Jacks. It has also been pretty cool to see the program grow and develop each year I have been involved. We have given ourselves a strong foundation to really catapult ourselves forward in the years to come. There honestly is not a better time to be a part of the Jackrabbit Tennis family.
What did you learn from Coach Hanson that will help you as a coach?
Coach Hanson taught me many things over the years. The most important lessons extend off the court in how to deal with and manage a program on a day-to-day basis. I think most coaches would agree that some days practice is almost the "down time" during the day in the sense that you only have to worry about getting the most out of your players. Being that tennis has no full time assistants, the coach has to manage all aspects of the program. Coach Hanson helped me determine what things were most important to focus on and how to deal with all of the non-tennis issues. He really helped me realize that the actual coaching part of the job is the easy and fun part, but there are many more things that go into a successful program off the court.
What is it like recruiting international players and how do they mesh with the rest of the team?
There is not a big difference in recruiting local players and international players. The biggest difference is that it is less personal then recruiting locally because the kids you are communicating with are half way across to world. So there is a lot more e-mailing involved. Other than that we are looking for the same qualities in the student-athlete no matter where they are from. The international students fit right in with the players we have on the team. Players really enjoy hearing what it is like in other countries and teaching each other what their culture is like. It can be an eye opening experience to have a teammate who comes from a totally different background. I know working with some of the international players have given me a different prospective on life. So I think the variety of cultures we have on the team helps each player grow as a person.
How tough is it only having a few scholarships to give out each year?
Obviously it is tougher to recruit Division 1 athletes when you do not have as much financial aid to offer. But there are many benefits to being a member of the Jackrabbit Tennis family other than money. We try to focus on the fact that by playing tennis for SDSU you get to travel around the country playing Division 1 tennis. You are going to compete against the best and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure you reach your full potential. Not only that, but you are going to get a phenomenal education that is recognized all over the world. You are also going to be a part of a family that supports and believes in you. We want to do things the right way and be a team of character. If we focus on that, we will become the tennis team of the Midwest and a team that everyone wants to be a part of.
Who is your favorite professional tennis player?
Even though I normally cheer for the underdog, Roger Federer has to be my favorite tennis player. No matter how hard I try to cheer against him, I just can't get myself to do it. He is certainly a class act and a man of character. If you are still liked when everyone is trying to find a reason not to like you that is pretty impressive!
Going forward, what are you expecting from SDSU tennis in the future?
There are nothing but good things for SDSU tennis in the future. We have improved tremendously over the last 2 years and we are only going to keep getting better. As I said before, we want to turn this tennis program into something everyone wants to be a part of. If we focus on the things we value, such as character and commitment, we will get there. I think everyone involved behind the scenes with the tennis program has the right mindset and there is no reason we will not achieve our goals. As we tell our players, we have to focus on getting better each and every day and the larger goals will take care of themselves.
The Jackrabbit Spotlight will pick an SDSU student-athlete or coach to interview each week. Interviews will be posted on GoJacks.com each Monday.