We got the chance to chat with Sloane Stephens’ traveling tour coach and USTA Mid-Atlantic’s Othmane Garma, also known as “OG.” Since Garma joined her team 13 months ago, she’s had her most significant results ever. The 25-year-old won her first-ever Grand Slam at the 2017 US Open and, was runner-up at the French Open. While that is impressive, what’s really stand-out is that Garma doesn’t just coach pros. His passion for the game spills into youth tennis as well.
Othmane Garma remembers idolizing professional players and coaches as a 10-year-old kid. Coming to the United States from Morocco at 14 years old, he had two goals in mind: learn English well enough to make friends and earn a full scholarship to a Division I school for tennis. Luckily, J.E.B. Stuart’s high school tennis coach James Holocombe took Garma under his wing, and made both a reality.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have the right voices around me and good people around me that want to see me develop as not only a tennis player but a human being,” said Garma, who grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. “Holocombe helped me learn English and do homework, drove me to tennis lessons, and he saw my passion for tennis.”
Garma had offers from George Mason, Howard, South Florida, and UNC Wilmington but knew he wanted to stay close to the D.C. area that gave him so much. He chose Howard, hoping to play on the ATP tour afterward. But after six months, he realized he didn’t have the financial resources to play professionally, so he turned to coaching.
He worked with as many as 40 players a week and generated approximately $110,000 for the Arlington YMCA Tennis Center. He moved on to coaching top juniors and was so successful, he advanced to working with professionals.
One of them was Treat Huey, a University of Virginia graduate who would eventually partner with Max Mirnyi.
“Traveling on the ATP world tour with Othmane helped me have the best season of my career, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals and qualifying for the ATP world tour finals,” Huey said. “His positive attitude was instrumental in the improvement I’ve had in my game.”
Huey and Mirnyi were a top 20 team under Garma, but that didn’t prepare him for the heights he’s attained coaching Sloane Stephens, ranked No. 4 in the world.
“I never pictured in my entire life that I would be holding a U.S. Open trophy as a coach,” said Garma, who works alongside Murray Kamau on Stephens’ team. “Everybody did their role. I was super grateful to be able to see her reach the success she deserves and for me and Coach Kamau, it was a proud moment.”
When Stephens won the U.S. Open last September, she was ranked 83rd, the lowest ranked woman to ever win the title and the first American since 2002.
“Coach Othmane has been a great addition to our team, and his positive approach to everything he does makes him an incredible asset,” Stephens said.
While Garma continues to thrive as a coach, he’s sticking true to his roots by staying involved in the Mid-Atlantic. At the end of July, Garma will put his pro coaching career on pause and travel to Cary, North Carolina to coach the Mid-Atlantic team at the USTA Southern Zonals. He’ll be working with elite boys and girls, in a format that allows Garma to coach on court during the matches — something he’s looking forward to.
“I’m super excited and really looking forward to connecting with the kids and being able to give back,” Garma said. “I want to inspire them and teach them through experience.”
Talking to Garma, you’ll often hear him use the word “inspire,” along with “motivate” and “create.” In his eyes, those three words strung together are what life is about. Those words are why he’ll be traveling to coach 14-year-olds in the same month that he’s coaching Stephens at Wimbledon.
“I don’t look at it as I’m coaching an amateur or a professional; it’s about delivering the same message in 100 ways depending on the person,” Garma said. “I’m coaching an athlete to be the best they can be and it’s still around tennis.”
While Garma continues to influence the Mid-Atlantic and the WTA tour, life just gave him another opportunity to have an even bigger impact. On June 13th, his wife, Gabriela Falcon, gave birth to their first child, Skyla Jolie Garma.
“I am so excited to introduce baby Skyla to the sport that has done so much for me as soon as she hits the age of 3,” said Garma. “It’ll be her decision to choose what sport she loves and I’ll support her with all the resources I have and more.”
Harry Holtzclaw is an intern with USTA Mid-Atlantic. Harry is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreation Management from James Madison University.