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Coach's Corner - Mon, May 1, 2017
Coach's Corner: Highlight of the Week (May 1)

Carla Blais, Isidore Newman Tennis Coach

  • High School: Honduras, St. Frederick
  • College: LSU, University of Miami
  • Coach Blais played professional tennis in Miami before beginning her teaching career.
  • Coach Blais just finished her third season as Newman Tennis Coach
  • 2017: Girls Team Runner-Up, Boys Team State Championship, Girls Singles Runner-Up, Girls Doubles State Championship, Boys Singles Runner-Up, Boys Doubles Runner-Up

What inspired you to get into coaching? Is it something you always wanted to do?
"Growing up one of the things that really stuck with me was that I really love learning in general, and I realized somewhat early on in my high school career that I would do something working with kids. So, I went to LSU and graduated in elementary education. I then went to get my master's degree at University of Miami in reading and exceptional student education. Having worked in the state of Florida, which was so rife with tennis with Miami holding the professional open, I took a keen interest in the tournaments. That's when I really took off with my career as a pro. It was nice living. I was able to really enjoy my time in Florida, but home is where the heart is. My family was in New Orleans, and I always felt a pull to come back home. My time as a pro, along with my expertise and my passion for teaching and learning really all lent itself well to being both a teacher and a coach."

You've said before that you were hired to put this program on the map, and now that your teams have won state championships in two of the last three years that you have been coaching them, you can say that you have definitely accomplished that. Now what does it take to keep that tradition of winning going?
"I think a lot of it has to do with developing the mentality that there are many more days that you won't like how you're playing than days you're playing great tennis. I can only count on one hand the times that I've played flawless tennis, but you have to have the ability to understand when things aren't quite going right. You can't play the way you want every time but the more flexible you are on court, the better prepared you are when you have a tough match ahead of you. You have to be positive, just grind, and understand self-correction. The best athletes in the world have the ability to deal with things when they aren't going well, and that's true in all professions. In the heat of battle, you don't really rise to your best level you sink to the habits you've developed in your practices. It's all about having the grinder's mentality. You have to be optimistic knowing that if you put in the hard work and have intentional practices, you will succeed. Successful athletes make sure every practice is one where you can walk away knowing that you've taken something away from it, and that's what I try to teach my athletes."

Usually we hear about coaches impacting the lives of players, but more often than not it is the student-athletes that leave a lasting impact on the coach. How have the athletes at Newman impacted your life?
"It was my first coaching experience, and some might say that not having much experience coaching to being a director of tennis at a school as prestigious as Newman is impossible. Those were very big shoes to fill but with my AD, Patrick Summerour, who was new my first year as well, we were really able to collaborate and together we found that it's a learning curve. Each year you turn over a new leaf. Each season is different, and each team is different. You have to build trust and healthy relationships, and somewhere along the lines the kids trusted the process and knew it was going to be a lot of work. For all the players knew, I was just a teacher and former pro player, and I didn't' have the coaching pedigrees that some of the past coaches have had. So, you have to constantly look to improve yourself and feel like you have given it everything you could. If I could walk away from every season knowing I gave everything I could, then I'm happy, and I hope the kids feel the same way. You're not defined by what you do or by your results, you're defined by who you've become and how you handled the journey."

What is the best advice you've received from one of your mentors or a veteran coach?
"My parents instilled in me from a very young age the importance of hard work and setting high expectations for myself. I've always been a veracious learner, never been complacent. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, who has to put up with a lot of late nights. My three year old was only six weeks old when I took the job, which was scary, but with my parents, my husband, my AD, and my assistant coach, Hossam Meligy I was able to get it done. When you're trying to create a championship culture like we are at Newman, it is important to have good help, and Hossam has been a very complementary force. A combination of all these people have really been patient with me and helped me strive for one goal. Also, I really look up to the head coach at UNO, Burzis Kanga. He's been a mentor for me ever since I first picked up the racket."