Ask the Experts
From Player to Coach to Administrator: An Interview with Erica Perkins of the USTA
by Colette Lewis
, 27 December 2010
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Erica Perkins of the USTA has experienced college tennis from the perspective of a player, a coach, and now as an administrator. Senior manager of junior and collegiate competition in the USTA's Player Development department, Perkins describes her responsibilities as "anything that pertains to college tennis within the USTA."
Raised in the Pacific Northwest by a tennis family, Perkins caught the tennis bug from her older brother, and had a racquet in her hand daily from the age of two. Describing her junior career as "low-pressure," and her status as "one of the better Northwest juniors, but not outstanding," Perkins knew she wanted to play college tennis in the Pac-10. She dreamed of playing for the University of Washington
, but although Perkins was a four-time state high school champion, she was not offered a scholarship there, so she accepted an offer from Washington State University
"It ended up being a great fit for me; I got a lot better at tennis," says the 31-year-old, who qualified for the NCAA individual tournament three times. "I probably overachieved for my ability level. It was a really positive experience and I went to a great school."
While redshirting for medical reasons, Perkins, a history major with a minor in French, began work on her masters degree in educational administration, with an emphasis in athletics.
Accepting the head women's coaching job at Georgia Southern immediately after graduation, Perkins finished her masters, and after two years at Georgia Southern, became assistant women's coach at William and Mary. After two years there, Perkins was named head coach at Michigan State University, spending two seasons in that position before joining the USTA in 2008.
During the Dunlop Orange Bowl, I sat down with the Boca Raton-based Perkins to talk about her job and the USTA's involvement with college tennis.
Colette Lewis (CL): What are some of the projects you've been working on?
Erica Perkins (EP): The USTA has the Summer Collegiate team, the Pro Tour transition camps, as well as some of the advocacy-type programs, like the Campus Showdowns and the Campus Kids' Days. I also do a lot of communicating by Facebook and Twitter, and I end up writing a lot for the website, whether it's Q and A's with players or writing up releases.
CL: Your title includes junior tennis. How does that figure into your responsibilities?
EP: My two junior events are probably two of the best in the world - the US Open juniors and the Dunlop Orange Bowl. My contact with juniors other than that is when I go out to the sections and speak to junior players and parents about college tennis. My junior interaction is mostly when it has to do with college tennis, which also includes when we bring the junior national teams to play at the colleges.
CL: I see you on the road a lot. How much do you travel?
Erica Perkins with USTA Senior Director, Junior & Collegiate Competition Jean Desdunes
EP: I'll have to look up the final count, but I'm pretty sure I've been on the road over 100 days (confirmed as 103) this year.
CL: Do you like that aspect of the job?
EP: When I first started, people in the office would say, oh you travel so much, how do you handle it? But I had gone from traveling every weekend with a team, so I felt like it wasn't that stressful at all, because I only had to take care of myself. It's a lot of travel, but everything I'm doing is so exciting and so positive. I may get on a plane to go to an event and be like, oh I'm in an airport again, hello Delta airlines, and I have that feeling when I start to travel, but then as soon as I get onsite at an event, interacting with college coaches and players, or junior players and their parents, by the time my job starts, I don't even realize that I've traveled. It's probably similar to a lot of people who love what they do, but travel a lot.