Coach travels from across the pond to reinvent the campus’ tennis program


Ceejay Willis

Coach Matthew Emmett giving advice to sophomore player Bryan Leung.

After having a tough time last season, the Cosumnes River College men’s tennis team began to search for a new coach that could breathe life into the program. They found that coach in Matthew Emmett, a man who said he is focused on changing everyone’s perceptions about the team.

While getting a new coach is pretty ordinary in the world of sports, Emmett’s journey to CRC is anything but. Not only has Emmett never played tennis, he also moved from his native England to the United States to coach the team.

“I have an unorthodox, non traditional background in that I have never played tennis,” Emmett said. “At 17 or 18 a really successful tennis coach moved to my hometown and I just built a connection with him and he was starting a junior tennis school and asked if I would be his assistant. The first day I stepped on the court I knew nothing about tennis.”

Emmett said he grew up playing soccer, but quit when he was 15. He then spent the next few years continuing his education until he found his passion, coaching.

“When I was at university I really realized that my passion was coaching and I wanted to become the best coach in the world,” Emmett said. “It sounds a bit out there, but that’s my goal.”

Emmett received a bachelor’s degree in sports coaching from Leeds Metropolitan University in England in 2009 and a master’s in sports psychology from California State University Fresno in 2013.

I talk a lot about this vision, and it is to create the most successful tennis program we’ve ever had here, but also as an extension of that to create the most successful program in our conference.

— Matthew Emmett, head coach

While studying at Leeds, Emmett made a connection with a professor named Dr. Simon Jenkins who encouraged him to move to the United States and learn from Dr. Wade Gilbert at CSU Fresno.

“I didn’t even know Fresno existed and I’d never heard of Dr. Wade Gilbert, but I heard that he was the leading expert in the world in sports psychology and sports effectiveness research. The decision in my mind was made that I needed to go to Fresno,” Emmett said.

Emmett was an assistant coach at CSU Fresno and then went back to England for a period of time before returning to be head coach at CRC.

While CRC’s tennis program has had a rough run with countless losses and a revolving door of coaches, Emmett said he felt like it was the place for him to create what he wanted.

“I wasn’t coming here and working under any restrictions. They were saying come and be you,” Emmett said.

Emmett said he is taking steps towards building a great team and program for the spring and is putting a lot of time into recruiting the right players.

“I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right ones,” Emmett said. “I’m looking for those players who have good skill, but believe in achieving the impossible and want to create a piece of history.”

Emmett said traits such as a dedication to personal excellence, enthusiasm, resilience, accountability and a laser-like focus are crucial to creating a successful and championship-winning team as well as support from coaches, other staff and players.

“I want for people in and around the campus to understand what it is I am trying to do here,” Emmett said. “I talk a lot about this vision, and it is to create the most successful tennis program we’ve ever had here, but also as an extension of that to create the most successful program in our conference.”

When he is not busy coaching, Emmett writes articles for academic publications.

Recently, a book review Emmett wrote was published in the International Sport Coaching Journal, according to the Feb. 9 edition of Inside CRC.

Wade Gilbert and another professor Emmett grew close to, Dr. Cliff Mallett, encouraged him to write after he received his master’s.

“That’s how it started, but I’ve started to branch off into writing about coaching effectiveness,” Emmett said. “Specifically about coaches who weren’t players, but great coaches.”

He actually cares about the team and the program and where it’s going.

— sophomore player Bryan Leung

Emmet said he is very familiar with the obstacles that coaches who never played their sport face.

“There are a lot of traditionalists that have the mindset that to be a great coach you’ve got to be a great player,” Emmett said.

When he started coaching, Emmett said he was very self conscious of the fact he had never played tennis, but got over it and realized that across sports there are plenty of top coaches who never played.

Sophomore player Bryan Leung had high praise for Emmett.

“He’s the best coach I’ve had so far and the most active coach,” Leung said. “He actually cares about the team and the program and where it’s going.”

Instructional assistant Brandon Ellis said that Emmett is doing a good job as well.

“He’s been recruiting well, so in terms of looking ahead we’re optimistic that we’re going to have a growing program,” Ellis said. “I think that he’s dedicated to looking both short term and long term.”

While Emmett said he enjoys working out, watching movies and reading, he admits that his life is consumed by coaching, not that he minds.

“I get up in the morning and the first thing I think about is coaching and when I go to bed the last thing I think about is coaching,” Emmett said. “Everyday is an opportunity to get better.”

Emmett said he is committed to making his vision come true and will not deviate from his plan until he succeeds.

“I quite honestly would not have come 5,000 miles across the world if I truly didn’t believe in my heart that it was possible to create the best team in the conference.” Emmett said.