Coaches Q&A – Jan Brogan
Long before her retirement from the head coaching position with the University of California at Berkeley women’s program in 2007 after 29 years, JAN BROGAN had established her position in the annals of Bay Area and national collegiate tennis.
At Berkeley her Golden Bears were a perennial national power, with 19 Top Ten finishes and 26 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Brogan helped produce 61 All America players, 19 first team All Pacific Ten Conference players, and five conference players of the year.
At the national tournament level, her players won four doubles championship titles and one singles crown. In addition, Cal players were named to the conference’s All Academic team 27 times and All America academic teams four times.
Brogan is a 1978 graduate of San Jose State and earned her master’s degree in sports psychology from John F. Kennedy University in 1998.
Q: Jan, how did you get your start in coaching?
Brogan: I began working with kids at the age of 16 for the Concord, California Recreation Department, working for Dennis Vander Meer. As a player I had been a late bloomer and wanted to keep aiming to play as a pro rather than go right to college, and being paid to teach enabled me to play in tournaments. I taught at Chuck Thompson’s at Palo Alto, at Brookside Club in Saratoga, and then made head pro at Blossom Hill in Los Gatos. After coaching briefly at Evergreen Valley Community College I was offered the job at Cal.
Q: Who were you primary mentors along the way?
Brogan: First there was Mary Hill, as a mentor when I was playing, and later on as a coach there was Carol Plunkett (San Diego State 1976-1994). Both were enormously influential.
Q: At what point did you feel you had coaching “figured out?”
Brogan: I never have and never will. Once you think you’ve got it down all is lost. Like many people I am a lifelong student of the game and the people who play. My goal was always to learn at least one new thing in each area of my job every year. I wanted to be the best coach in college tennis in every part of the job.
Q: Having spent 29 years at Cal, and then continuing in the profession, what things might have you done differently?
Brogan: It’s very easy to see things clearly now, but I would have found ways to work with the variety of personalities that you encounter sooner in my career. That would have made a difference to me as a teacher. Beyond that, I would have also found ways to both spend more time with my family and learn how to take losing more in stride.
Q: Was it all worth it, the years and the time?
Brogan: Yes, it was all worth it, even the bad knees, the wrist issues, and the herniation in my neck from overuse. I think had I learned earlier how to manage my natural competitiveness and intensity, I could have coached another 5-10 years. As it was, I was pretty well burned out at age 55.
Q: In your view, what has changed the most in the profession?
Brogan: The trend that I see, and don’t like, is that too many people are getting into professional positions not because they have solid teaching experience, but because they were great players. This doesn’t work. I believe we need more people who are “rounded.” By that, I mean trained in physical education, kinesiology, sports psychology, and coaching and teaching philosophy. Coaches work with bodies AND minds. Breaking the game down in pieces and teaching kids how to measure their progress is not something for the untrained. We are all teachers first.
Q: What type of time commitment did you make to coaching?
Brogan: At the highest inter-collegiate level, coaching is a year around job, 6 days a week and usually ten hours a day. You had better love it. We took breaks at Christmas and in the summer for a month. At all other times you are coaching and recruiting.
Q: What were the common themes among your teams? What kind of culture were you trying to build?
Brogan: We looked for players who saw fun in the game, who enjoyed playing and learning and improving. We wanted competitive kids who approached the game as a professional would, with passion, who were good sports and team-oriented. We wanted smart, disciplined, fearless, fit, and healthy people. These are the things we wanted to be known for.
Q: What else did you look for in a player?
Brogan: All the kids who play college tennis are great athletes and what makes them special is that desire to get better every day, to grow each day as a person, a player, and a student in school. As a coach you have to learn to balance the needs to provide a kick in the butt and a hand on the heart.
Q: As a coach with some perspective, what conclusions can you draw about success?
Brogan: I think you are looking for a combination of long-term vision and the determination to stay on the path without wavering. We wanted our kids to use their practice time to create a light bulb to “light up” their game. We told our kids they would never be considered losers if they always gave it all they had and still lost a match.
Q: What lessons did you learn in coaching that you have applied in other parts of your life?
Brogan: I think trying to learn to be in the present moment and to enjoy everything that you are doing applies anywhere. You are so busy that you turn around and you are 50 years old wondering where the time went. Paying close attention to what you are doing allows you to learn from what you’ve done and build a future you’ll be proud of.
Q: What other coaches have you looked upon, learned from, and respected?
Brogan: I think the first name that comes to mind is Phil Jackson in basketball because of the ways he incorporated various forms of spirituality in his work as a teacher, mentor, and coach. He is unique in that regard. And who could not admire Pat Summit and Bill Walsh for what they accomplished in their professional lives, people who were so influential that their names will be known forever.
In tennis, there is Dick Gould at Stanford, a master craftsman and educator who has given his life to the sport. And, there are Anne Lebedeff (Pomona-Pitzer), Sheila McInerney (Arizona State), and Bob Hansen (U.C. Santa Cruz & Middlebury), who are all role models for me as a college coach. I have been fortunate to be around these people while learning my profession.
Coach Q & A is a partnership between G-board and Skip Corsini. Skip Corsini is a freelance writer, teacher and consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area who has coached basketball at the interscholastic level since 1980. Learn more about Skip on www.twtwritingcoach.com and skipcorsini.tumblr.com. He can be reached at [email protected].
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