My name is Aaron Paul and I’m the volunteer assistant coach for Wake Forest Women’s Tennis. My path to this point has been anything but traditional. I started playing tennis when I was 6 and I was playing competitive tournaments by the time I was 8. I loved tennis, and I would talk and dream about playing tennis professionally. I even joked with my mom that we would travel the world together while I played. I always thought tennis would be my life. And it was until I was 13. Suddenly, the love for the game was gone. What were originally my favorite hours of the day quickly turned into the most miserable experiences of my life. For a multitude of reasons, which could be its own series of blog posts, I swore off the sport. I told my parents I would never play again.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself enrolled at the University of Virginia. Right off the bat, I had started working with UVA men’s basketball as a student manager, so I was selective in looking for other activities. Even though I hadn’t played in a few years, I decided to sign up for club tennis. A few days later, I showed up at tryouts with pretty much no expectations of making the team. Even though I was extremely rusty, I did somehow make the team.
I spent the first year as more of a social member, playing once or twice a month. Going into my second year at UVA, I was looking for a change in my daily routine and social circles. I continued my dedication to men’s basketball but I spent every other free minute I had playing club tennis. As I started to play more and more, my love for the game came flooding back. Having a whole group of high level players to play with was incredible.
I love the competitive nature of tennis in general and love how Tennis on Campus turns it into a team sport at the same time. Tennis on Campus produced some of my happiest moments and best memories of college. Not only do you get to travel the country with your best friends and play competitive tennis, but you also start to become close with players from other schools as you start to see them at a lot of tournaments. I spent many weekends visiting and hosting club tennis friends from other schools completely outside of typical Tennis on Campus activities. My club tennis team also acted as a second family of sorts while I was at school. I lived with, ate with, hung out with, and went to school events with people on club tennis. It really was one big family. And I still stay in touch with most of those people to this day.
I didn’t really have the desire to play college tennis out of high school. And having not played for years and years, it would have been hard to play for the powerhouse that is UVA men’s tennis. However, as I started to play more and more in my second and third years, I thought about transferring to play college tennis somewhere else. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was in a perfect situation. I loved being at UVA. Tennis on Campus was an extremely competitive outlet with a lot of high level tennis players and it was flexible in allowing me to do other things while I was in school. Playing club tennis instead of varsity allowed me to do things like be a manager for men’s basketball (which was similarly influential in my college experience) and study computer science and mathematics which might have been difficult to manage on a varsity schedule.
As graduation was approaching, I really had no plan to work in tennis. I loved playing the sport but, to be honest, it was never really on my radar. Ever since burning out from tennis in my early teens, I had dreamed of running a franchise in the National Basketball Association – hence why I decided to be a student manager for UVA men’s basketball. I took a job in the front office for the Washington Wizards doing basketball analytics and technology. I had what I thought was my dream job. And while I really liked the work I was doing and the path I was on, I missed the camaraderie of being close to and more hands on with a team.
The thought of coaching college tennis seemed like the perfect fit, and I am extremely fortunate to have ended up at a phenomenal program like we have here at Wake Forest. I have the opportunity to learn from two of the best coaches in the country and I get the hands-on experience of teaching on court every day in practice, individuals and matches. I am also extremely grateful that the team here has been open to a new voice on the coaching staff and has allowed me to develop in the way I have. I have taken every single day as a learning experience and I could not be happier with what I do. Our head coach often likes to say he has found the one job he would still do even if he won the lottery tomorrow…and I could not agree more!