After the end of her collegiate career, tennis will still be an active part of senior Caitlyn Merzbacher's life.
Merzbacher's next chapter in her lifelong tennis journey will just be starting as she prepares to embark on a monthlong trip in Europe coaching youths from the United States.
“You know you can have a desk job and be behind a computer all day, and you don’t really get to impact people's lives,” Merzbacher said. “I think as a college tennis coach you can really impact the lives of each student athlete.”
Merzbacher has only instructed private and group lessons before, so coaching a team traveling to Spain, Amsterdam and Prague will be a new experience for her. She hopes it will be a defining moment in choosing what she does next.
Tennis has been a part of Merzbacher's life practically from birth. Her father Chuck, a former Gophers women’s tennis coach and a Minnesota alumnus, has been coaching at the collegiate level for 30 years. Caitlyn Merzbacher said that the influence her father and all of her coaches have had on people's lives influenced her decision.
“You can have a huge influence on students not only on the court, but off. And I’ve seen that play out, not only in my dad and the players he coached, but also with [coaches] Catrina [Thompson] and Brian [Ward],” Merzbacher said.
Junior Tina Kreinis, who has built a relationship with Caitlyn Merzbacher over the last three years, said Merzbacher carries some key qualities that will make her a great coach. She especially noted her practical thinking behind tough decisions.
“I think that being as levelheaded [as Caitlyn is,] she's a great mediator and she can assess a situation from different angles and take in a lot of information before making a decision,” Kreinis said. “She doesn't take sides or pick favorites, and that's what you need to do as a coach because you have to look at the whole team and know what everybody needs.”
Her father, Chuck, said Caitlyn’s knowledge of different coaching styles and the tennis lifestyle will allow her to succeed as a coach.
“She’s always had great people around her giving her advice and showing her the different avenues of tennis,” he said. “So I think that if she wants to go [coach] it’d be fun for her and, you know, is it going to be a career? Who knows, but I think she should try it.”
As Caitlyn Merzbacher’s collegiate playing career winds down — and before her potential coaching career can start — she is focused on the Big Ten tournament this weekend. She is 12-11 in duals this year.
“I mean, honestly, I’ve been having a pretty good season for myself,” Caitlyn Merzbacher said. “[I’m] just focusing on each match one by one. ... But I’ll definitely be soaking it in a lot, like the locker room and different traditions that we have and, you know, just trying to slow it down a little bit.”