In this edition of the Between The Hedges Q&A, we check in with former men's tennis standout Drake Bernstein - who is now the assistant women's tennis coach at the University of Alabama. Bernstein was back in town with the Crimson Tide for last Friday's dual match, and we caught up with the All-SEC and career 100-match winner.
BtH: So this is your first season spent out of Athens, and Winder even before that--how does it feel coming back?
Bernstein: It's good. This place is still home in a lot of ways, being around the courts especially. It's different from being on the other side of it, both coaching and not being at Georgia.
BtH: Definitely must have a different feel not being here. What do you miss most about Athens?
Bernstein: This tennis center, probably. I've spent a lot of time here, growing up watching the matches, learning the tradition, and then getting to be a part of it. That's the most special thing for me. Everything else is great, but this is the first place I go when I come back and what stands out for me.
BtH: How's being a coach somewhere else treating you?
Bernstein: It's awesome, I love it. We've got a really good team, all hard workers and good listeners. The best part for me has been the head coach, Jenny Mainz, who has help me so much. She's been so patient, took a chance on hiring a younger guy for a women's team, and she's made it really easy for me to coach.
BtH: What's your favorite part of coaching, as opposed to playing?
Bernstein: Maybe that I get the chance to affect more than one court at once. Obviously when you play, you try to be supportive of the guys on the courts next to you, but now I can actually give insight and influence multiple courts at once. Hopefully you can help get more than just one point for the team.
BtH: You still miss playing, right?
Bernstein: Yeah, totally. All these big matches stuck at three-all, you really wish you were out there playing. I do miss it, but the time that I had here was special, and I got plenty of it in.
BtH: How do you think Manny [Diaz] has helped you prepare for this transition from player to coach?
Bernstein: Manny's one of the best, if not the best, coaches in college. He and [Associate Head Coach] Will Glenn showed me about what it takes to coach, how to handle a team. We never overlooked anybody, nor did we give anybody too much respect. You try to play all the matches the same. And Jenny's the same way--treat every match as if it's any other match when you play. Another thing about Manny is he gave me good perspective about how important it was at the end of the day. If you lose a tennis match, or win one, the world's not going to end. He's done that for me and I hope I can do the same for these girls.
BtH: You might have an opportunity to come back here next month for the NCAA Championships. What would that mean to you?
Bernstein: Yeah, we've got a good shot with a good team. It's been their goal since the beginning of the year to be here in May, and as we're ranked now we're in, but there's a lot of tennis we've got to play between now and then. Hopefully we can move up in the rankings instead of kind of hanging out where we're at and cement ourselves here.
BtH: Thanks a bunch. Good luck!
-By Eliot Beckham