Adam Almighty. Short interview with Head Men’s Tennis Coach Adam Schaechterle
I first met Adam during my time at UNF. He came into the locker room and I immediately realized he was unlike any other coach I had in the past. Soft-spoken, respectful yet passionate, and firm. He worked hard for the players and for that, they worked hard for him. Adam inherited great talented players at UNF, but he was able to add more talent and preside over some of the best seasons of the program‘s history.
Today, he is running a very successful program at Pepperdine over the last three years. In the 2020/2021 season, Adam led the team to a conference title, the team's first since 2013.
This conversation can help prospective student-athletes, coaches, and parents of players.
What are you looking for in a student-athlete when recruiting them, has that changed at all since the beginning of your career?
Adam: Like all elite programs, we are looking for and competing for elite talent. We have been fortunate to attract some incredible student-athletes at Pepperdine, young men who had already earned ATP points while achieving excellence in the classroom. But, we have also found some under-the-radar prospects who we felt “fit” extremely well with our program. I think that is an area where I have matured as a coach. In the past, when I thought about the upside in a prospect, I considered tennis weaponry (a huge serve) or physical capabilities (size, speed). Now, I see a prospect’s upside closely connected to his “fit”. When a student-athlete is successful academically, comfortable in his environment and passionate about the program...that prospect usually has an incredible capacity to improve.
What steps does a junior American player need to take to be ready for d1 ball?
Adam: Great question! No matter where a junior player is from, the best preparation for college is to learn to take responsibility for oneself. I love when a recruit travels on their own to an event. They learn how to make disciplined off-court decisions, set a schedule, and prepare well for matches. Our college game also continues to grow more and more physical. The most prepared junior player will know his way around the gym.
What has been a success formula for you as a coach?
Adam: The best coaching advice I’ve received was from Arvid Swan at Northwestern, who strongly encouraged me to be myself. That sounds simple but took me several years to understand. I have found that I connect best with my players when I’m organized and have a clear vision for their development, but then make the daily process fun. Our assistant, Tassilo Schmid, is great at balancing an incredible work ethic while enjoying the grind. He has been a huge help in making that balance a part of our culture at Pepperdine.
Have you seen a difference in the quality of tennis from your start in college coaching to now?
Adam: I will share a funny story about the quality of college tennis - when I was in my 2nd year at UNF, we traveled to Kickoff Weekend and played UVA when they were #1 in the nation. They had an incredible team - what stood out to me was that day they had Mitchell Frank playing #5 singles, and he had been a top 5 junior in the world for itf. I was sharing the level with our volunteer coach that season, Brian Gottfried, and I told him I thought that might have been the best #5 singles player in the history of college tennis. He laughed and said, “well, I played a good bit at #5 my first year at Trinity”. Brian went on to win 3 Grand Slams in doubles and finaled the French Open in singles! My point in telling the story is that college tennis has had a tremendous level for many generations...I think about some of Coach Gould’s Stanford teams, and it’s staggering how many future successful pros were on one team. But then I also think about Tennessee a few years ago, with Sandgren playing quite a bit at #4. It’s hard to say there has been a difference in quality over the past 10-15 years, I am just passionate about college tennis and love how consistently college tennis players have made a significant impact at the pro level.
Everyone is talking about entitlement in the younger generations. That almost seems to be always the subject on coaching boards etc. What is your perspective on this?
Adam: I am extremely fortunate that I was mentored by coaches like Arvid Swan, Ryan Sachire, Bryan Shelton, Michael Center, and Peter Smith. All of these coaches understood that college coaching is not about how players respond in the moment. Yes, it can hurt to have a player take an entitled attitude, especially when as a coach you feel you are trying to support and help. But, all of my mentors shared stories of athletes that would call many years after graduation, and express gratitude. That helped me early in my career to see a bigger perspective. While I was at Notre Dame, Coach Sachire in particular helped me grow past my own feelings, my own desired response from the player - and, I have found a lot of freedom in letting go of my expectations for how I believe the player should respond. Coaching is a humbling profession. But, I’m grateful for how this process of serving 18-21 year olds and doing my best to support their growth has helped me grow as a person.
What are your best moments as a coach?
Adam: I tell my current players often, that I might drive a 2013 Honda CRV but my memories make me rich! At UNF, we gutted out back-to-back 4-3 wins to reach the top 50 in the nation for the first time. In the 2nd match, we lost the dubs point and one of our best players broke his wrist. I will never forget watching the celebration and how proud I was of that group. At Notre Dame, we beat the #1 team in the nation, UNC, on senior day. That group of 5 seniors was so special and they deserved that moment. Here at Pepperdine, we were ranked outside of the top 200 nationally...so it was a special experience to see the boys take down Minnesota and Oklahoma on the road in only our 2nd year.
There have also been some fun individual tournaments...Moritz Buerchner and Norbert Nemcsek starting in the qualies of All Americans and making it all the wag to the semis. I remember the tournament desk kept laughing when we would report the scores, that a North Florida doubles team beat the top teams from Duke, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. When the NCAAs were at Baylor, Quentin Monaghan battled to the semis and beat Cam Norrie in an incredible match in the quarters.
Those are some of the results that stand out. But, the best memories are the early morning individuals with a kid like Qui. He was so committed to learning and growing, he would have become one of the best players in college tennis anywhere. Or seeing a kid like Alex Lawson transform from being talented but sloppy - and then being 20 mins early to every training for his final 2 years. He became an All-American and a successful pro player, but I have stronger memories of his growth as a person. I guess I have rambled in this answer, sorry for that, but I love my players and am so thankful for the lifelong relationships college tennis has given to me.