Lois Arterberry is in her first full season as Gophers women’s tennis head coach. The team is now 4-0 in the 2024 spring season after back-to-back doubleheaders on consecutive weekends early this month.
Tennis in January in Minnesota?
“Luckily the indoors are super important,” explained Arterberry after an evening of singles and doubles matches at U of M ‘s Baseline Tennis Center, which shares space at Ridder Arena. “Yeah, I’m glad for the indoors, grateful.”
Arterberry, who is the school’s first Black female head coach of any sport in two decades, was hired last May to rebuild the Gopher tennis program, which has fallen on some tough times of late. She comes with nearly a decade of coaching experience that includes head coaching stints at St. Thomas (2021-23), Eastern Illinois (2017-18), and Jackson State men’s and women’s tennis teams (2015-17).
We attended our first-ever Gopher tennis match a couple weeks ago. We were amazed how the head coach could keep track of all the action taking place virtually at the same time on the six indoor courts.
“Obviously we’re looking at the scoreboard,” Arterberry pointed out. “If we see a player that’s playing a match a little bit tighter, we want to make sure that we’re getting over there and giving them the support that they need.
“If we see a player that’s playing hard tennis and she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing, handling business, and [we will] leave her to play free. I have an assistant, Anastasia [Pendleton], so we just float around and make sure that we’re getting to everyone as the day goes along.”
It’s more than just hitting the ball over the net, continued Arterberry. “There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it.
“We want to make sure that they’re doing the things that we’re working on during the week, and they’re getting better at that during matches. I think it’s really important that we train each player individually.
“They have different playing styles, and we want to make sure that they’re playing their strengths…and we’re just reassuring them and making sure that they’re confident in their tennis.”
According to a 2023 USTA study, tennis participation increased by one million players in 2022 for the third consecutive year of growth of one million or more new participants. Black participation has increased by 46 percent over the last three years (2.3 million players in 2022), with POC representing 38 percent of the U.S. tennis players, up from 32.5 percent in 2019.
However, this growth isn’t being seen at the collegiate level: 424 Black females were playing tennis in 2023 (it was 597 in 2012), and this is across all three NCAA divisions.
Arterberry is among 16 Black HCs in college tennis.
“We’re on the rise, and we’re just building from the ground up,” said Arterberry, whose Gophers will return to action on February 10 at home against South Dakota and St. Thomas.