49.2 F

Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

The change in the game

Eric Steidlmayer carries an amiable smile and a wry sense of humor wherever he goes. He is focused and intense as well, clearly intent on bringing his savvy experience and intelligence to work with him every day as the UC Davis men’s head tennis coach.

Steidlmayer has stayed close to his roots throughout his life and career. He started out at  UC San Diego, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1996, and then earned a master’s degree in economics from UC Davis in 1998. He then became the head coach of the men’s tennis program at UC San Diego that same year. He became the winningest coach in UCSD history, compiling 12 consecutive NCAA Division II postseason appearances highlighted by an incredible 20-0 season in 2011.

And after all that Steidlmayer elected to come back to UC Davis in 2012 to coach the men’s team. Why would he give all that up?

“Family. A lot of family in Norcal,” Steidlmayer said. “Also the challenge of coaching at a Division I level.”

Coach Steidlmayer was quick to mention that both of those factors carry the same weight in his mind; both bear equal importance.

Steidlmayer carries the loyalty that he has shown his alma maters to the tennis courts as well. He feels the same commitment to his team and it shows through in the values that he not only hopes to instill in his players, but holds himself to as well.

“As a coach, I value a good, constant and consistent effort from myself everyday,” Steidlmayer reflected. “This is a constant opportunity to help young men develop positive character.”

Steidlmayer’s journey to being a coach began from a young age.

“I always loved sports. As a kid I could see myself as a coach, and it ended up that way,” Coach Steidlmayer said. “There were a lot of things that I was able to take from my youth coaches.”

Steidlmayer played collegiately for three years when he attended UCSD, and then became an assistant on the UC Davis team when he came here for his graduate studies. The segue from player to coach figured to be difficult, but Steidlmayer handled it with deft touch.

“It was a smooth transition to coach,” Steidlmayer said. “As a senior in college, I was looking to help the younger guys get better.”

“There was a massive amount to learn though,” Steidlmayer said. “Learning the different personalities, understanding the pulse of your team. I’ve had a lot of good assistant coaches.”

The people with whom you surround yourself with are very often a reflection of yourself, and the man that coach Steidlmayer has had with him to help adjust to being the UC Davis head coach is just that.

Assistant coach Michael Meyer played under coach Steidlmayer at UCSD and then played on the men’s professional tour afterwards. He came with coach Steidlmayer to UC Davis at the start of the 2012 season.

“Michael’s a first-rate guy and has gone through the ups and downs of being a tennis player,” coach Steidlmayer said. “He still has a good tennis level, and is a great buffer between myself and the players.”

Coach Steidlmayer gives his easy grin with that last sentence as he admits that sometimes when things get intense on court, he needs someone there to help smooth things out with the players.

“He explains to the guys when they ask ‘Why’s Coach getting on me like that?'” laughs Steidlmayer. “He’s a really valuable guy.”

Coach Steidlmayer always thinks as a coach first and foremost, deferring credit for the UC Davis men’s tennis turnaround these past two years to his players.

“All the players are trying very hard to improve,” he says. “We’ve recruited well and the outlook is very good for the short term. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

That is certainly true, but it is very much a credit to Steidlmayer’s skill and intelligence. A major factor in determining a coach’s worth is often not to maintain a successful program, but rather to build one. Steidlmayer did both of those at UCSD and is now continuing that brilliance here at UC Davis.

“I am happy I’m here,” Steidlmayer said. “Our players are trying their butts off to represent UCD and it’s appreciated.”

UC Davis is happy that you’re here too, Coach.


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