In September 2017, Occidental Athletics announced the hiring of Rachel Manasse as head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis programs. Manasse was previously a coach for the combined Claremont-Mudd-Scripps tennis program that went 75–9 and won three SCIAC championships during her tenure.
According to men’s tennis captain Cameron Coe (junior), Manasse’s youth, status as a former nationally-ranked player and incredible “tennis IQ” have made her a perfect fit for a young program looking to improve. Establishing a rigid set of rules and goals early in the season, Manasse has set the expectation that players on both teams must consistently demonstrate accountability and put the team before themselves.
Manasse is taking over for former coach Ghia Godfree, who she cited for teaching her the necessary skill of coaching patience.
“Everything’s a process — you know there’s no instantaneous results,” Manasse said. “Nothing replaces long-term hard work and dedication and discipline, and that’s when you’re going to see the most success.”
Women’s team co-captains Samantha Farrell (senior) and Lauren Hutkin (senior) said that even though the team is only in its second week of formal play, each player can already feel a noticeable improvement in their skills and confidence. The captains said that they believe that Manasse’s balance of compassion and strict discipline has fostered a team environment where everyone contributes their best in an unselfish manner.
“I think it’s about having a better balance in terms of pushing us and supporting us,” Farrell said.
Farrell said that in addition to bringing balance to both teams, Manasse’s background in nutrition and dietetics has prompted healthier eating and training habits amongst players on both squads. According to Hutkin, Occidental tennis players are training and eating better than ever before to compete at the highest level.
While Manasse is early into her coaching career at Occidental, Coe said that she has already begun to deliver results. Both on and off the court, players have noticed a dramatic increase in their unity and playing ability. Citing the men’s team’s recent performance against Pomona, in which the team lost 8–1, Coe noted that the level of play was a major improvement for an Occidental team that has struggled against Pomona in the past.
“Seeing everyone improve on their results from last year — against a team that’s top 10 in the nation — is really exciting,” Coe said.
While Manasse looked back on both teams’ previous matches as major positives, she also acknowledged that their records are not her first concern. According to Manasse, by putting her players’ academic and physical well-being before the outcome of matches, she has created a thriving culture in which individual players perform to show a dedication to their fellow teammates. The captains agreed with this sentiment.
“Honestly, I think it just comes from seeing my players reach their goals and seeing them improve and get better,” Manasse said. “You know, my success is not measured by wins and losses, it’s by seeing my players develop as athletes and students.”
According to Manasse, while wins and losses are not her primary concern, the high expectations she sets for her squads, both daily and for the season, contribute to a team attitude that requires dedication.
Alongside improving playing ability, Manasse has prioritized a shift in the culture of the tennis program towards a communal, familial environment. Within this network of support, Manasse said players not only inspire others to improve their game but also act as emotional supports in a stressful college environment.
“We work really hard to keep the team morale up, have a good team environment, make sure everyone is, you know, happy. Not just on the courts, but in school and their social lives,” Hutkin said.
According to Manasse, Occidental’s progressive political climate and history of student involvement were major factors in her decision on where to coach. While Manasse has prioritized player development over match outcomes, she said that with time, Occidental’s tennis program can eventually compete with the best. Farrell said that Occidental has found a perfect fit in a compassionate, dedicated coach that will constantly push players to achieve on and off the court.