June 4, 2014
After a successful year both on and off the court, Zubin Engineer, head coach of Southern Miss' men's tennis program, is excited about the direction the program is headed.
"I'm very excited for the next coming year because I feel we have a lot of talent coming in," Engineer told SouthernMiss.com in a recent interview. "I would definitely like to finish at the top of our conference."
Engineer has more than 20 years of coaching experience at the collegiate, Davis Cup, Federation Cup, National and International levels under his belt, which has given him valuable experience prior to becoming the head coach at Southern Miss.
"It's always been my philosophy to expect 100 percent effort from my players and that's what I'm very big on," explained Engineer. "It doesn't matter what you're going through, but it's always important when you come on the court to give 100 percent."
Originally coming from an international background, which is weighted more towards individuality, Engineer particularly enjoys the team aspect of collegiate tennis.
"It's exciting to be part of a team because it's very much like coaching Davis Cup where you have a team environment and you're competing as a team," Engineer shared. "You have your teammates depending on you. The whole team environment is very challenging and motivational for me to be able to bring out the best, not only in each individual, but also as a team."
While success on the court is certainly important to Engineer, he is equally proud of his players' focus in the classroom. Engineer's team finished this past year with the highest GPA among all men's sports.
"It is very important for me that they are good in academics as well as on the court too," Engineer said proudly. "We finished with a 3.64 cumulative team GPA, so that was very exciting for us to be able to perform off the court."
That success off the court has directly fit into the model Engineer has installed in the Southern Miss tennis program.
"The model is to be the best we can in academics and athletics too," said Engineer. "We want to compete for the championship and the best GPA in the athletic program, so we want to compete for everything that's out there."
The team's success is led by a unique group of international and American players. This past year's roster included players from Ecuador, Taiwan, England, India, Russia, Portugal, and Mississippi.
"I think with tennis truly being an international sport, it's a perfect fit for players from different countries, different cultures to come in and blend together," explained Engineer. "I think it's very good to have to an international team so we can mix in and play different game types and different styles."
"It's a real advantage for us to be able to have these different elements when we practice," Engineer continued. "I make sure that a player doesn't hit with the same player every single day, which helps in getting a sense of what a different game would feel like."
With the success of such a unique culmination of players from around the world, Engineer looks forward to utilizing his international assets even more in the coming years to continue expanding the culture of the men's tennis program.
"It definitely helps to have a wide network that you can tap into. There are so many markets that haven't really been tapped into yet. I'm trying to get into some of those markets like central Asian where there are a lot of good players out there," said Engineer. "I know the culture, the region and how they are thinking, so I definitely feel my 20 years of experience in Asia is something I can tap into from time to time."
With three seniors on the roster from this past season, Engineer especially hopes they take with them the experiences and relationships they have formed while at Southern Miss.
"The experience is very important. I want them to have a good experience, not just on the tennis court, but also in the Southern Miss school environment," said Engineer. "I also want them to have good friends and a long term relationship with teammates and with me. I hope after 20 years they're going to always look back and say, `Coach we had a lot of fun and we enjoyed our time on the court.'"
As Engineer's coaching philosophies continue to become ingrained in Southern Miss's men's tennis program, he hopes that future success will follow, both on and off the court.
"We want to be nationally ranked as high as the top 30," explained Engineer. "That's definitely a goal I'd like to see happen. And to also continue striving in the classroom and having the best GPA among all the men's sports."