As an active kid growing up in Malvern, Pa., he could be found playing a multitude of sports. He swam, played baseball and loved it too, but would eventually dedicate his life and work to tennis.
Coach Mark Riley, K’82, serves as Kalamazoo College’s Mens Tennis Coach and is the Director of the USTA Boys Junior Championship. His coaching career spans 20 years working with K, as well as other schools which include Drake University, University of Kansas, and University of Pennsylvania (UPenn).
While Riley now acts as a valued member to the campus community, it is surprising to think that if it were not for a phone call seven years ago, he would not be here today. In his capacity as Head Mens Tennis Coach at UPenn, he thought he was at his dream job.
“I thought I was going to be here for life, it was home for me; coaching at home, big city, but when my alma mater called, I became interested,” Riley said.
His inspiration for starting a coaching career ties back to his days as a student at K, playing tennis under the tutelage of the legendary coach George Acker. After leaving K, while competing professionally, he realised that he would love to make a living coaching.
For Riley, it is a great honor to continue being a part of K’s tennis legacy after playing for 3 years as a student, and now coaching for 7 thus far. He beamed with pride when he spoke about his role in helping to continue that legacy. “It’s a responsibility we take seriously; it’s a lot of work to continue the legacy. It’s something to motivate you every day,” Riley said.
Another major perk to the job he believes is the role he gets to play in the lives of his players, during and after their college years. He sees himself as a coach, big brother and uncle to his players, as he gets the chance to see them grow up, live their lives and ultimately contribute to their development as athletes and scholars. Riley stressed that the places great focus on all his players’ athletic and academic growth, values he came to appreciate and adopt while here as a student.
When he is not pursuing his passion, Riley spends his time shopping, travelling to visit players to catch up or just to go sightseeing, and reading when he finds time between the hectic tournament cycles throughout the year. He also finds the time to watch other sports teams at K.
“I can learn something by going to watch Coach Hess coach her volleyball team, or Coach Zorbo coach the football team, or Coach Shabazz coach the soccer team, and just see how they are with their guys and gals.”