Sept. 23, 2009
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -
Not many individuals can say they were a student-athlete, an assistant coach and a head coach at the same institution, but head tennis coach Alessandro De Marzo can claim that feat.
The Lima, Peru native spent three seasons as a member of the USC Upstate men's tennis team. After his playing career ended, De Marzo served as an assistant coach from 2003 to 2005. During that stretch, the men's team advanced to the NCAA tournament and in the 2004-05 season, the team finished ranked seventh nationally.
De Marzo took over head coaching duties beginning in the fall of 2005. Since that time, he has had the men's team advance to the NCAA tournament on several occasions, while the women's team won the A-Sun championship in its first year of D-I play.
De Marzo, who will begin competition on Friday at the USTA National Open Division Championship in Las Vegas, recently sat down with Alex Edwards of upstatespartans.com to talk about the his time at Upstate as well as the upcoming tennis season
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day will usually begin with an early morning practice for the men's and women's team. After we complete the practice, I will give lessons at the Westside Club before returning to campus for an early afternoon practice with the teams. Around 3:30 or so, I will return to the club for more lessons.
You were a member of the men's tennis team at Upstate, what was your most memorable moment as a student-athlete?
I would have to say the most memorable moment for me was my junior year when we beat USC Aiken. We defeated them 5-2 in an important conference match and it was the first time that our men's team advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
You spent two years as an assistant coach before taking over as head coach, in your opinion what is the biggest difference between being an assistant coach and a head coach?
I would have to say there is more responsibility placed on the head coach which can make it more stressful. Being an assistant coach, at least for me, it seemed that I was the mediator between the head coach and the players on the team. As an assistant, the players felt more comfortable talking to me and then I would share those comments and concerns with the head coach.
What do you see as the biggest difference between living in your home country of Peru and the United States?
Well first thing, here in the U.S., I work a lot more. In the U.S., you have to provide for yourself and there isn't always someone you can depend on, whereas in Peru, we had three maids and that made life easier. I am happy here in the U.S., don't get me wrong, but you just have to depend on yourself here more than you do back home in Peru.
On Friday, you begin play in the USTA National Open Division Team Championships in Las Vegas. What about the event excites you the most?
I am very excited about that opportunity as it is the only time I am able to take a break from coaching and can actually play tennis. Last year, the team and I competed very strongly and came up just short as we made a few minor mistakes that ultimately cost us. This year we have a strong team and I feel we can compete, so we will play our best and see what happens.
What are your expectations for the tennis teams this upcoming season?
On the men's side, last year we finished second in the conference behind ETSU. This year, we are very strong and I feel that we can compete for a conference championship as well as be ranked in the top 15 nationally. With the women's team, we lost several quality players from last year's team so we will have to rebuild. But I am hoping that this season we can finish in the top three in the A-Sun.
What motivation techniques do you use to get your players ready for matches?
It is very important to build a strong relationship with the players on your team. If you have a strong relationship with your team, I feel that that will enable you to get the most out of them. I feel that they will want to give their all for you as well as the team each and every match. If you lack that relationship with players and they are behind in a match then they may just give up and not give it their best. So what I try to do is build a strong bond with each player and try to help them out as much as I can. I was in there shoes as I came to Upstate from a foreign country and I think that because we share that they respect me and the program here.
Which tournament are you and your team looking forward to the most this season?
I would have to say the All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla. We have been trying to get in to the tournament the last few years, but we haven't been invited to the tournament. I am guessing we are in because we had a strong year last season and we finished the season ranked. It is supposed to be the best tournament in D-I and we are in the qualifying round of the tournament and I am looking forward to that event.
What do you look for in the players that you recruit to play tennis at Upstate?
For me, the most important thing is that they have intensity. You can help correct players techniques and mistakes that they make, but if a player doesn't have the desire to do well then they will not succeed. Either, you want it or you don't, it's pretty simple.
What do you see as being the most rewarding aspect of coaching?
Being a winning program, to me, is the most rewarding aspect of my job. Also bonding with the team as well as getting the most out of them each and every match is also rewarding. Not only do I want to win, but I want each of them to improve during their time here.