Tennis has always been a part of Robin’s life, and he does not plan to change that. Since he was a little kid he has always been very competitive and driven. Robin had quite the college career at the University of Oregon where he broke multiple school records and helped the team reach a team ranking of top 25. Since playing, Robin has found joy in coaching at the collegiate level where he has had huge roles in recruiting in every program he has been a part of. Currently, Robin is the Assistant Coach for The William And Mary Women’s Tennis team. If you are interested in checking out his collegiate records you can click here. Robin is currently the Most Winningest Player in University of Oregon Men’s Tennis history.
- At what age did you start playing tennis?
I played for the first time at a summer camp on my 6th birthday. I have not stopped playing ever since. I was also playing soccer at the time but prioritized tennis over soccer. I chose to stick with tennis at age 10.
- Can you talk about your junior career a little bit? Did you play a lot of tournaments?
There were not very many tournaments in Belgium. The biggest tournament that I won in Belgium was indoors when I was 16. I kept improving throughout my junior career. I was never the top player in the country, I was ranked second when I was 16. I never had a private lesson in my life due to financial reasons, so I had to work really hard. I was not able to get support from the federation either. I made it inside the top 300 junior ITF but was never consistent.
- Can you walk me through your recruiting process?
I knew I wanted to go to the U.S to play college tennis 2 years before college. I had special guidance going into college. I had a lot of schools contact me but none were big schools. I targeted the Pac-12 Conference for some reason. I looked at the schools that were not ranked in conferences that had ranked teams. I reached out to Oregon but they told me they were not interested. I had a friend reach out to me and tell me Oregon was looking for a player and asked if they should tell the coach about me. I told them that I already reached out but they said they would do it for me anyway. I remember I got off of a recruiting call with Nevada thinking about committing and then the head coach at the University of Oregon called me. The Oregon coach said he would come to Belgium that Friday and watch me play. I knew I was going to play there after that trip he made to Belgium. I ended up getting a scholarship to play and the rest is history.
- Can you talk about the feelings a freshman might feel when coming into a program and playing top 3 in the lineup?
I was not the biggest team player. Part of that reason was my character from juniors. I had to learn the team process. I was working hard but my temper was in my way. The team thought I was selfish and that I was not doing my best to control my emotions. In the Fall I was playing close matches with good players. I started at #2 singles in the Spring but was not ready. I realized quickly that I had to contribute and figure out the mental and team part of the game. I do not think I learned that till junior year.
- What was an initial challenge for you your freshman year?
My temper would get the best of me. I do not like losing because I am so competitive. I would get point penalties so often that we had to change team rules to deal with them.
- Can you describe your team culture at Oregon?
When I first got there the program was trying to become a top 25 program. The head coach was like a father figure and was laid back. Our other coach was hard on us and was like a military-style guy and expected big things. I knew he was trying to make us tougher so I bought in. It was hard in the beginning because some of the players that were on the team before me were not bought in. We started to put tennis first over other things you experience in college. We climbed the rankings every year.
- You started the spring season of your sophomore year on a 15 match win streak. Do you remember that? What do you think was the biggest contributor to that success?
I think things just started to slowly click. Midway through my sophomore season, I started to grow up. I was playing #2 when I had that win streak. I was on a mission to find my purpose and realized I wanted to be the best at Oregon. I have always had a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove people wrong. I think a lot of coaches hated me in the Pac-12 due to my attitude but I never tanked a match because I did not want to lose.
- Do you think your behavior got in the way of some coaching opportunities?
Definitely. I am a super loyal guy so I was all in and did not care about the other teams. Maybe sometimes my behavior would come off as disrespectful at times but it was just because I wanted to win. I was being a competitor. Due to my behavior on the court, people would think I was a bad person. I was completely different off the court and I never meant anything personal. I was just there to compete and try and beat you. I always thought they should be doing the same.
- Can you talk about your senior year and how emotional this season can be?
My teammate Alex Rovello who came in as a freshman with me passed away my senior year due to a freak accident. I played that whole season for him and that is part of the reason why I am coaching today. I needed to reach our goal of making it to NCAAs for Alex. There was a bigger purpose. That’s when I realized tennis is just a sport and there are bigger things in life than tennis. That’s the year when I broke a lot of Oregon records. I broke a school record in Alex’s hometown in front of his parents. I did it for him. I got a tattoo in memory of him too.
- What was your most memorable moment on the court at Oregon?
Clinching against Stanford in the Pac-12 conference to send us to NCAAs was the most memorable moment of my career. Hearing Oregon get picked during the selection show was super special also. To hear our name get called after all of the hard work was amazing.
- Did you think about going pro after college?
I was a really good college player and tough competitor but I did not think it was for me. I think I could have had somewhat of a pro career but it was not the right thing for me to do at the time. I think the impact my coaches had on my career, Alex’s passing, and my growth made me realize that I wanted to coach someday. I did not know what that would look like right after college. I took an internship with the Pac-12 Network doing sales and marketing and that made me realize I need to be around people and not sit at a desk 9-5 so I started my coaching career soon after.
- Do you prefer coaching men or women?
I think they are both very specific in their own ways. I find that both men’s and women’s programs have similar struggles and issues. I am enjoying coaching women’s tennis right now because I think my strength is more tactical. In women’s tennis with the right tactics, you can make really big leaps forward whereas in men’s tennis there are other factors. I have enjoyed building teams to powerful programs.
- What is one thing that you learned after your first year of coaching at Washington State?
I learned that you have to be a good recruiter. My style of recruiting is different from a lot of coaches. It is super important to find the right fit for both the coaches and the players. A coach must be honest and present them with all of the facts they need to know going into college. I will not negatively recruit but tell them to look at things that I did not look at when being recruited to play in college. I do not recruit because you are just a good player. I learned how to recruit at Washington State.
- How would you recommend someone get a coaching position after college?
I would recommend not being afraid to work for free. At the end of the day, we are not coaching for the money. We have been a part of these players’ lives from 18-22 years old and after that too. Do not be afraid to be a volunteer coach or be a Graduate Assistant coach too. Once you have that 2 years of experience you can start to look for a paid position. Be willing to grind and work for free for a few years and it will pay off.
- How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
I try to find players that are similar to me that want to have that underdog mentality and work hard. I know what players can go through so I respect players that show up and work hard every day. I want players that want to develop and do not care how they beat their opponent. I have passed up on recruits and let players go that were really good players but did not have the right priorities and be on the team for the right reasons.
- What is your coaching goal or dream?
I would like to become a head coach within the next 3-5 years. Ultimately I would like to turn a program into a top 25 program as a head coach.
- How has tennis shaped you?
It has taught me everything. All of the experiences that I have had, both good and bad, have made me who I am today. Hard work, sacrifice, competitiveness, loyalty, teamwork, and relationship building all came from tennis.