New tennis coach puts emphasis on students

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New tennis coach puts emphasis on students

Coach Matthew Llewelyn speaks to player Emilio Saenz at team practice. Wolf Pack athletics hired Llewelyn last November.

Coach Matthew Llewelyn speaks to player Emilio Saenz at team practice. Wolf Pack athletics hired Llewelyn last November.

Coach Matthew Llewelyn speaks to player Emilio Saenz at team practice. Wolf Pack athletics hired Llewelyn last November.

Coach Matthew Llewelyn speaks to player Emilio Saenz at team practice. Wolf Pack athletics hired Llewelyn last November.

Sam Lucio

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Last November, Loyola Athletic Director Brett Simpson announced the hiring of Matthew Llewellyn as the Wolf Pack’s new men’s and women’s tennis coach.

“We were looking for someone who could build upon the academic and athletic success that our programs have recently achieved,” said Simpson. “We felt strongly that Matt was the person who could do that.”

Llewellyn said he always wanted to be a tennis coach, as the sport is a part of who he is. His journey here to Loyola, however, has been anything but linear.

“The experiences that I’ve been able to have are maybe nontraditional in a lot of ways, but they’ve been able to prepare me to lead [Loyola] now,” said Llewellyn.

Llewellyn, a Michigan native, had a long journey throughout the tennis world before he was eventually hired at Loyola. Llewellyn played collegiately at the University of Toledo in Ohio and then set off on a career of coaching around the country. After his college playing days, Llewellyn was an assistant coach at Flagler College in Florida from 2006 to 2008. From there, he moved on to Roger Williams University in Rhode Island from 2008 to 2009.

It wasn’t until Llewellyn eventually moved on to be the director of tennis at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut and later the director of tennis at the Tennis Club of Hastings in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York in 2018 when he started to feel like he was struggling. Llewellyn said he took any odd tennis coaching jobs he could find. He was a private coach and varsity coach in his spare time and started coaching high-level junior players for the United States Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation.

“I really saw college coaching as something I wanted to give a try,” said Llewellyn. “I really wanted to shift my focus and become a college coach.”

Llewellyn took matters into his own hands by asking for advice from the coaches that recruited his players. According to Llewellyn, he took a major step in his coaching career by attending the NCAA Men’s and Women’s singles and doubles tournament in Orlando. Llewellyn attended by himself to “keep networking.”

Llewellyn was at that tournament when a friend told him about an opening at Loyola.

“It was just such a great fit and just such a great school,” said Llewellyn.

Llewelyn took a flight out to New Orleans for what he described as an “extensive” interview process.

“He has a passion for college tennis, which came through in the interview process,” said Simpson. “His experience as a college assistant and expansive recruiting network were also impressive to us.”

One part of the interview process included students on the tennis team interviewing Llewellyn. He described this moment as a key factor in him wanting to coach at Loyola.

“Number one, [the students] cared and it was great for me to be able to see that,” said Llewellyn, “They want to be a part of something special.”

Llewelyn said the students are the main reason why he loves to coach. He mentioned that the tennis team has the highest GPA in the Loyola athletic department. Preparing students for the real world is his main goal as a coach, according to Llewellyn.

“If I don’t have my team prepared for the next phase of their lives then I failed,” said Llewellyn.

For Llewellyn, winning is important but what really matters is the people he works with and the students he coaches.

“Obviously, we want to win a lot of matches, and the department wants to win a lot of games and to be successful,” said Llewellyn. “But you can really tell that it is a close group with a common goal.”

Despite his extensive coaching record, Llewellyn said that he feels like he might have finally found the place for him.

“I’m lucky to be here, and I can’t express that enough,” said Llewellyn. “It really took the right school to attract me here and obviously the city is great but the school itself has been awesome.”