It’s noon on an average Thursday. The University of Miami women’s tennis team practices in the blazing sun. In the corner of the court stands head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. She balances words of encouragement with a fair amount of criticism as the players run through drills over and over again.
Yaroshuk-Tews has been watching the UM women’s team play since she was a child. She recalls how well the team played and how their greatness inspired her. When she came to coach at UM in 2001, the team was ranked 37th in the country. It was during her first practice here as head coach that she decided to instill her work ethic on the court into her players.
“Just working our tails off. That’s all we can do,” she said.
That was Yaroshuk-Tews’ mindset when she began coaching. It had been her mindset for years as a player.
Yaroshuk-Tews did not have the best stroke on the University of California at Los Angeles’ women’s tennis team. She was not top-ranked. What made her a great player, though, was that she worked harder than anyone else. She did whatever it took to win.
“Paige was one of those players that won a ton of matches by working that much harder,” UCLA head coach Stella Webster said. “She could outcompete anyone.”
Other teams were afraid of her on the court. Even her teammates were intimidated, but they were also inspired. She built relationships with her teammates and, as captain, was able to instill her hard-working ethic into them. This trend continues now as she coaches her players.
“Paige has found a way for her team to win just as she did when she was a player,” Webster said. “Her players bought into her philosophy of outcompeting every opponent. Miami is the perfect place for her to use her talents as a coach. She gets as much out of her players as she got out of herself.”
Yaroshuk-Tews does not coach an easy practice. Her athletes are always conditioning, always drilling, always playing – always getting better.
“That’s what we’re here for anyway, to get better,” Yaroshuk-Tews said. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. If you can perform when you’re uncomfortable, like when you’ve got 400 people cheering against you at ACCs, you will be successful.”
Success has been reached. Yaroshuk-Tews is the all-time winningest women’s tennis coach at UM. She has brought Miami to the NCAA’s “Elite Eight” six out of the past seven years. In the 2013 season, the Hurricanes won the ACC Championships. Yaroshuk-Tews does not plan for the success to dwindle anytime soon.
“It’s all nice, but it’s not really why I coach. I mean anybody that knows me knows I’m not into all the numbers,” Yaroshuk-Tews described. “We’re trying to get better everyday. There’s a lot of kids before me dying on the tennis court and buying into my philosophies, and I’m getting the credit. It’s not me, it’s them. Really.”
Even with all of the success, Yaroshuk-Tews appreciates a loss now and again. She feels her team benefits more from losing. Their competitive drive, the same competitiveness that Yaroshuk-Tews had on the court, forces them to learn from their mistakes.
“Sometimes we win and get away with a few small mistakes,” Yaroshuk-Tews recalls about a match last season against Michigan. “I don’t think we learned as much from it. I mean, when you have a competitive group of girls, you don’t want to lose. But they learn much more and come back stronger after a loss.”
Yaroshuk-Tews’ student athletes love impressing their coach. Stephanie Wagner, who plays No. 1 on the team, chose UM partly because of Yaroshuk-Tews’ coaching. The players believe in her and trust that every comment or criticism, drill or punishment is given for a good reason.
“I think we’re a really good team because she’s so tough on us,” Wagner says.
“It’s hard sometimes, but it shows that she cares about me and she wants us to improve and do better. It’s why we accept her toughness. Her relationship with the team is really good.”
The 2014 season marks Yaroshuk-Tews’ 13th year at UM. She does not plan on letting the upward trend of wins and successes level out anytime soon.
“This is fun for me, this isn’t work,” Yaroshuk-Tews says with a smile. “The University of Miami is my home. If I’m not at ‘the U,’ I won’t be coaching, that’s for sure.”