Stephenson Aims To Take UW Women’s Tennis To ‘Next Level’
By Mason Kelley
Robin Stephenson stood by a bench near Washington’s outdoor tennis courts. It was one of those precious late fall days in Seattle when the sun was able to keep away the rain for one more day.
In the background, on the courts below, people hit the ball back and forth. The pop of the ball hitting the sweet spot of the racket reverberated across the courts each time someone made contact.
Stephenson’s life has been centered on tennis for as long as she can remember, so it was a day to celebrate. In fact, every opportunity to be close to the sport is a “dream come true” for the young coach.
“It’s amazing,” said Stephenson, who was hired by the Huskies this summer. “To be able to do something you love every day and also make a difference in other people’s lives is a very rewarding job. I’m fortunate to do what I love. It’s pretty fabulous.”
She discovered tennis when she was 8 years old. By the time she was 10, “it kind of stuck.” Even at a young age she decided to spend her life close to the game.
“I haven’t had many days away from a tennis court,” she said.
Stephenson played collegiate tennis at Alabama. She was an All-American. Top five in the country in singles, No. 6 in the nation in doubles. She turned collegiate success into a brief professional career, climbing to as high as No. 152 in the world as a doubles player.
But, while she spent a few years playing professionally, she knew her future would lead her back to college and coaching.
“It was just learning from one of the best coaches in the country (Jenny Mainz at Alabama),” Stephenson said when asked what pushed her toward a coaching career.
While she played professionally, she was a volunteer assistant at Georgia Tech, learning from Bryan Shelton. During her time in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets won a national championship.
“That was a great experience for me,” Stephenson said. “I felt like I was coached at Alabama by one of the best coaches and then I went to Georgia Tech and he was another one of the best in my mind. It was good for me to be around. I always knew college coaching was my passion and what I wanted to do.”
Stephenson has turned that passion into a quick rise through the coaching ranks. As the head coach at Georgia State last season, she led the Panthers to their first trip to the NCAA Championships in women’s tennis.
“The coaching climb has gone pretty quickly, and it’s been good,” Stephenson said. “All those experiences have led me here, and feel I can take this program to the next level.”
After spending as much time as possible getting to know her players this summer, Stephenson is now helping the Huskies grow their games.
“I’ve been very impressed with the first couple weeks of practice,” Stephenson said. “The girls are working hard. We’ve set some pretty high goals for the year.”
For Stephenson, the latest chapter of her tennis career provides a new season, a new team and a new challenge.
“The expectations of this athletic department are very high and my expectations of where the team is headed are very high,” she said. “Every day I wake up I’m thankful for all the sacrifices I made along the way to get here.”
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