By Paola Palacios
Riverside City College men’s tennis coach Thomas Yancey led the team to a 10-9 record, in his first year, using experience from his past.
Yancey’s experience with tennis began at a young age. His mother, who played at Penn State would become one of the people that influenced him to play the game.
“I would tag along when my mom would play tennis at the El Camino Country Club,” Yancey said. “After she was finished playing she would go and hit some balls around with me to keep me happy.”
When he first picked up a racket at age seven he didn’t like it, so instead he played other sports recreationally, such as football, basketball and baseball.
It wasn’t until three years later, when a new teaching professional arrived at the El Camino Country Club, that Yancey started gravitating more toward Tennis.
That coach was Curt Condon, Yancey still remembers his words of wisdom.
“‘Go out of your way and do things for others and expect nothing in return,’” Yancy said Condon told him.
Condon later died of cancer when Yancey was a senior at Concordia University Irvine.
Prior to reaching CUI, Yancey met the assistant tennis coach for Palomar College at the country club.
Through her, he was able to contact Palomar’s head tennis coach Ronnie Mancao.
“I was fortunate enough to get him to (play for) Palomar,” Mancao said.
While playing at Palomar, Yancey played the number two position and was able to obtain a scholarship to play at CUI.
“He was a very good player,” Mancao said. “He was consistent and an all-around team player.”
Yancey received his bachelor’s degree from CUI in 2008 and went on to receive his master’s degree from Azusa Pacific in 2011.
After graduating from CUI, Yancey became the assistant coach for Palomar’s men’s and women’s tennis teams, alongside Mancao.
“The reason why I chose to hire him on my staff was because I already knew how he played and how mature he had become while playing for the team,” Mancao said. “I knew it would be a good fit.”
While coaching at Palomar, Yancey obtained his coaching certificate and began coaching at El Camino Country Club, where he taught people ranging from ages 3 to 80 years old.
After helping coach the tennis teams at Palomar for seven years, Yancey applied for the head coaching position at RCC.
He would go on to replace the previous head coach Jim Elton, who is now the assistant athletic director at RCC.
Yancey got to know Elton and head women’s coach Nikki Bonzoumet while coaching against them the past five years.
“If it wasn’t for them and knowing how they run their program I probably wouldn’t have applied,” Yancey said.
Elton, who had been the men’s tennis coach for the last 10 years, was the one who hired Yancey as his replacement.
“His level of education with his masters completed, playing at a college level, understanding players and students, also his ability to teach class was why I chose him,” Elton said of Yancey’s qualifications.
Both Elton and Bonzoumet give Yancey advice when he asks them for it.
“I assisted him with learning the processes that we use here at RCC as far as the business side of coaching goes,” Bonzoumet said.
Yancey was able to bring together a group of young men and inspire them.
“He brings motivation to the team,” freshman Samuel Paque said.
Yancey’s experience as a collegiate tennis player also helps him as a coach, according to former players.
“He knows how it works, to transfer, to find good schools,” sophomore Antoine Voisin said.
Yancey is trying to help form a team in a sport that is mostly played by individuals.
“This team isn’t just about that one player. It’s something that they have been able to buy in from the beginning,” Yancey said about his players. This team is pretty much a family.”
He has been able to bring the players together.
“We are close because we spend time together, not only on the court, but also outside,” Voisin said.
Yancey plans to keep building on the tennis program by helping students get their associate’s degree after two years then helping them transfer into a university.
Yancey led the Tigers to a 10-9 record this season, in his first year as head coach.
The Tigers obtained the seventh seed in the California Community College Athletic Association South Regional men’s tennis dual team Championships.