It was in college, playing for and helping organize the University of Florida club tennis team, where Max Koller realized his desire to work in tennis.
“The UF club tennis team has a hard-working discipline that student-run clubs sometimes lack,” he said of the dominant UF club that has won the USTA Florida “Tennis on Campus” year-end championships 10 out of the last 13 years.
“The bar and expectation is set the highest it can go every single year. I was able to walk into a very established program that could only be built on, so my job was easy. I keep in contact with many people still there today.”
Contacts are important in any industry, but especially in tennis, which continues to outgrow all other traditional sports in yearly participation. Koller says the UF tennis club, and participating in the Florida Tennis on Campus circuit, provided him with the contacts and industry relationships needed entering the “real world” after college.
Out of college Koller landed a position with Embry-Riddle University as a sports marketing assistant, and earlier this year became the assistant tennis coach at Bethune-Cookman University. A friend had put his name in with the director of tennis and head coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach when the position opened.
“Division I college tennis coaching was and currently is a dream job for me, and I am incredibly indebted to all the individuals that have given me this opportunity,” Koller says. “My time with the UF club team provided me with a foot in the door for many tennis employment positions right after graduation.”
While college club tennis helped his industry job aspirations, Max’s mother Lynn says tennis helped him even earlier on as a youth.
“Tennis shaped Max’s high school and college experience,” Lynn Koller said. “Being an integral part of his high school team fueled his confidence and his game. Once he became involved in Tennis on Campus, first as a player and then as UF club president, he really used it as an opportunity to network and carve out a place for himself in the field of college tennis. His appointment as assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman University was a direct result of his continuing involvement in the sport through college.”
Now, what to do with that history degree from UF?
“I joke with my friends that in college I majored in tennis and minored in history,” he says. “That aside, my history degree really helped develop my reading and writing skills which helps me effectively communicate to the student-athletes I currently work with.”
A year out of college the former Florida junior competitive player still finds time to give back to tennis. Last month he traveled to Oklahoma to coach the Florida 16-and-under teams in USTA Zonals competition. He tells junior players that if you’re not ready to commit 100 percent to NCAA tennis, then college club tennis and the USTA Tennis on Campus circuit is a great way to still play competitively in school while keeping a life balance.
“My advice for high school students making a college decision for the first time is this — if you are good enough to pursue NCAA collegiate tennis, then look at the options you have available and assess, ‘What is the best move for me to be happy and successful?'” he says. “If you are not 100 percent ready to commit to a collegiate team, however you love the game, then Tennis on Campus is the best possible scenario for you. The level of tennis is very high and the relationships you make with your teammates will be invaluable to your overall college experience and will help you far longer down the road. Tennis on Campus allows you to play purely for the love of the game. There’s a lot to be said about that in itself.”
From jobs and internships at the USTA National Campus to tennis facilities and organizations across the state, Florida offers a bounty of opportunities in the tennis industry. Take every opportunity to add to your resume that comes along, says Koller, and build on those experiences.
“I can only speak for college tennis, and I can tell you I am incredibly fortunate to have been granted an opportunity to coach at a high level with a less-than-traditional college coaching background,” Koller says. “If it was not for my experiences at UF with the women’s varsity program and Tennis on Campus, I would not have the position I have now.”
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