New Wildcat tennis coach brings first-hand experience

Sierra Bodle, Staff Writer

Tennis is one of the more “COVID-friendly” sports. Players are on opposite sides of a net, spaced much more than six feet apart, and the Linfield tennis team is often able to play outside. When indoors, they wear masks and take lots of breaks. Even though masks are uncomfortable when exercising, the women’s tennis head coach praises the athlete’s resilience. 

Ella Riddle, the new head women’s tennis coach, is a former Linfield student-athlete. She played tennis all four years as a Wildcat and loved it so much that she came back. “The best thing about coming to Linfield is the support and the community,” she said. “Not just on the court, but also in the classroom.” 

Riddle’s passion for tennis has deep roots, because she has been playing since she was four years old. She originally played in her hometown of Leeds, England. Inspired by her coach there, she recently went back to Leeds to finish her master’s degree in strength and conditioning.

While abroad, she also served as a strength and conditioning coach for women’s professional tennis and netball teams. Along with coaching, Riddle will assume a similar role at Linfield and will serve as a strength and conditioning coach for the athletic department. 

“I’m excited to do more in sports performance with Linfield,” she said. “Everyone is really open to collaboration and making Linfield stand out in the realm of sports performance and athlete health.”

Mentors and friends have influenced Riddle from a young age. “I’m grateful I was able to play for my old coach who made me the tennis player I am today,” she said. Seeing the connection between coaches and players is one thing that inspired her to become a coach. 

Junior women’s tennis player Tessa Kern is impressed with Riddle’s work ethic and genuine desire to help them improve. “She works extremely hard and it’s impressive how much she’s done, even though it’s her first year as a coach,” Kern said. “She’s always working and putting together lesson plans and drills.”

Kern pointed out that it’s nice to have a coach who has experience as a player, because she understands the life of a collegiate student-athlete. “Not only is she a great coach, but she tries to make it so we can always come to her for anything,” she said. “We can trust her, which is such an important quality as a coach. It’s awesome that we have a coach who values us and our life off the court.”

“She brings a good culture, she’s very intelligent, and she always has our back,” Kern said. “As a coach, she’s always there for us; advocating for us to have practice time, and to get new uniforms, and be able to travel.”

Riddle is adamant about keeping up the high standards set by the previous coach, Lisa Macy-Baker. Under Macy-Baker’s leadership, the team won conference championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and finished 2020’s uncompleted season at a promising 2-0 in conference. 

“I’m very nervous, it’s something new,” Riddle said. “I look forward to learning how to be in a position of responsibility. Lisa did an incredible job and she’s the reason I loved playing tennis at Linfield. I’m going to do my best because those are big shoes to fill.”

Whatever the upcoming season may bring, the new coach feels prepared to take on the challenge. “I’m really proud of the girls, they’re been incredibly resilient and made it an easy transition for me,” she said. “They’re an incredible group of ladies and they really make my job 10 times easier.”