Longtime tennis coach Paul Kostin has stepped up and taken on the position of VCU’s newest tennis director, leaving Anthony Rossi to lead the men’s team after spending one season with the Rams as an assistant coach.
Kostin has been with the Rams for 29 years, holding the second-most wins in NCAA history with 1,155. He spent nine years previously with the University of Arkansas before taking on a position with VCU. Rossi, a former VCU tennis player, came back to the university due to his established relationship with Kostin and the program as well as the potential to win the conference.
Last year you were the Head Coach for the men’s and women’s teams. What was the shift in jobs like?
Paul Kostin: Well, you know, I felt it was time to, for me, to just concentrate on one team. I think times have changed, so everybody needs more individual attention. It’s kind of hard for me to be with two teams, when one is playing at one place, and the other one is at a different place. Anthony [Rossi] did a good job, so I didn’t have any problems to just say, “Hey, you know, why don’t you take over the men?”
What are your goals for the new season, now that you’re the head coach of the men’s team?
Anthony Rossi: Well, the goal, I think, every year for us is to [be] number one, win the conference, the A10, so we can go to the NCAA. Then, the goal for us is to make the top 50, and then in two years, to be in the top 30 if possible.
PK: For the team, we always want to keep on winning the conference. We try to go a little bit farther in the NCAA tournament. And last five, six, seven years, we haven’t done that. So that’s the goal. I look at this, that you play the whole schedule, and you take it one match at a time or one game at a time and see how that goes.
What are your coaching methods? How would you describe the way you coach the team?
AR: I always put myself in the players’ situation because I was a player not so long ago. And then, most of the guys that we get are international students. So I know that for them, it’s a little bit different, the way it works here in America with the fitness or just the practices and all that. So I try to understand and see where they come from a little bit. I treat everybody [differently] even though it’s a team sport. Tennis is still an unusual sport.
How would you compare the difference between you and coach Kostin?
AR: We’re different. Paul is from Sweden, I’m from France. We get along pretty well. I don’t know how [many differences] we have. He’s probably a little bit more laid back, but he has so much more experience than I do.
Do you think that the change with the coaching staff would affect the team at all?
PK: I don’t think so. I don’t see any reason why. I have full confidence in Anthony to do a good job. I think if we do our job well, we’ll be okay, both the men and the women.
What is a typical day like coaching with the team?
AR: On season, we have one [team] practice every day for about two hours. Then they have one hour of conditioning or weight lifting. Then we try to have them do one or two hours of individual [practice] per week. That’s for each player. And then we have the tournaments and all that.
What made you want to get involved in tennis?
AR: Well, I played since I was probably eight or nine, and then I loved the sport and I liked it better when it’s a college environment. It’s not just about tennis; it’s a little bit of everything involved. Taking care of a player for four years, so you can see how he progress and if he gets better, and then you have to take care of his classes, too, and then his career. It’s not just four years and then you’re out. It’s [seeing] how they grow and what they do in the future. I think it’s pretty interesting.
If you could go back to last season, would there be anything that you would change at all, or do differently?
AR: No. Because when I arrived, the team was pretty much set. It was more like a transition year. I think we could have done better on some stuff, but nothing’s perfect. But overall, I think we did pretty good. Not the best one, but a positive one.
PK: No, I’m not much for regretting things. We had such a young team last year with five freshmen and we did well. We just hope they keep going. We’re working hard at it, and we stay healthy. Besides that, I never have any regrets. Whatever happens, happens. And I don’t believe in any excuses either, because it’s so easy to use excuses for anything you do in life and that’s not reality. I feel I’m trying to teach that to today’s generation, too.
Throughout your tennis career, would there anything that you would go back and change? If you go back all the way in time.
AR: If I look back, I wish I had a coach in France who was a little bit tougher on me. You know, sometimes when I would just be messing around too much, and this is what happened in college, at Kentucky. They were a little bit more strict and firm on me and it worked. So I wish I had that knowledge 10 years ago.
What are you looking forward to the most with the new season coming?
AR: Playing the spring season. Get out there, play those matches. It’s good to practice, but I already know my players. We don’t have anybody new right now. Sometimes practice, when it’s day after day and you don’t have any tournaments, it gets a little boring. So just go out there on the court and see how we can do. I know it’s still early; we just started the year, but that’s what’s the most exciting.
PK: It’s another year. You try to do the best as you can and kind of forget what happened last year and go on. You always start from scratch every year.
And is there anything that you would want fans to know?
PK: You want them to come out and support as much as they can. I think last couple of years we had little decline in that. It’s always good to have people coming out.
Jessica Wetzler Sports Editor