Coach Spotlight: Michael Augsberger and the Joy of Tennis

Michael Augsberger’s name may seem familiar to you, and that’s because he is also the coach of the Girls Varsity Tennis team at Princeton Day School. You can check out the article we wrote about him in the fall for information about his playing background and more!

Coach Augsberger’s love of sports may stem from a surprising place for many. He says, “I love the drama. It's a narrative that no one can predict and is fueled by the crowd.” His coaching and playing philosophies are heavily influenced by The Joy of Sports, a book by Michael Novak. He says, “Novak says the rules of each sport are the limits from which creativity flows. You would think the rules are constrictive, but without them it would be chaos. Within the boundaries, so much creativity can take place that new things happen every day and the drama unfolds in new ways each time. It's like classical art versus modern, abstract art.”

Augsberger’s influences don’t only come from books. When considering who has shaped his coaching, he points to three of the most successful coaches at his high school. He explains, “Dennis Walker, my baseball coach, is my biggest influence as a coach. I am also influenced by Doug Nowell, who succeeded Walker and coached my senior year, and Scott Mosier, whose soccer team is one of the top 10 in the country every year. Walker  was the fairest coach you can imagine---no one is a star, everything is done as a team. Mosier taught me that simplicity is memorable, and that competition in practice draws the best out of players, not drilling.”

His skills and hobbies extend beyond tennis, too. While he currently serves full time as senior writer, editor in chief, coach, and Director of Competition for The Tennis Curator, a tennis magazine, Augsberger also writes film reviews and has been published at NBC News. During his time at The Tennis Curator, he has covered the service trip to Anguilla, where high school students teach the local kids how to play tennis. He says that this summer, there are even some Princeton Day School students attending the trip. 

Read on for an excerpt of Coach Augsberger’s coverage of the Anguilla trip:

Estimates put Florida’s damage from Hurricane Irma at fifty billion dollars. Anguilla’s figure was 190 million, but it’s only thirty-five square miles, smaller than the city of Miami. If the island had been as big as Florida, all things the same, the damage would’ve been 356 billion. Perhaps nowhere is it more confronting than The Valley’s Ronald Webster Park, really the only public park for sports on the island. FIFA subsidizes the football stadium. But the cricket field resembles a cow pasture. Around it runs a coarsely outlined oval of dirt and dead grass for sprinters; the island that sent Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers to the Commonwealth Games for the heptathlon has no track.

Across from the dilapidated lies the dangerous. Mitch walked me to the remnants of the academy’s first two tennis courts, brutalized by Irma. “We called them the dungeon and the palace,” he told me. With sometimes seventy-five kids on a court, coaches needed some way of taming the chaos. “You knew if you messed around you’d be sent to the dungeon,” which was the far court, worse-for-wear even back then, with cracks and bad bounces. “And if you worked hard you’d be called up to the palace.”

Mitch took a few cuts with his racquet at the palace. Irma swept away the netposts and some fencing, and weeds have overtaken the sidelines, but the lines are still there, the blacktop surface still flat enough to roll a ball. It wouldn’t take much to get it ready for casual play. The dungeon, however, is unrecognizable as either a tennis court or a dungeon. We climbed upon the raised foundation and beheld a serrated and pockmarked surface. Scrap metal and bare piping jut out. Jagged rocks chipped from the former court cautioned my every step. A black hole led somewhere deep beneath. “It’s four years,” he said. “Shameful the government has let these go so far.”

I interjected. “Yes, but would you say they have more important rebuilding to do?”

“Acute need is one thing,” he said, “but it’s about the systems and the youth. Life and routine after the hurricane need to be normalized again. And the way that you address inequality is through these programs, so kids discover ambitions and start thinking beyond thirty-five square miles. They don’t even know what’s out there unless mentors and places like the Anguilla Tennis Academy expose them to it.”

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