It is not uncommon for college athletes to return to their alma mater in a coaching role.
What is rare is the athlete coaching a different sport than the one they played.
That is exactly what Dylan Curtis is doing, having been hired as the new head coach of Shippensburg University’s women’s tennis team.
Curtis serves as the associate director of recreation on campus and was a long snapper on the Raiders football team from 2017 to 2021. He has a pair of degrees from Shippensburg, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2021 in exercise science before obtaining a master’s degree in organizational development and leadership in 2023.
Curtis believes his role as the associate director of recreation will help him as tennis head coach, particularly overseeing club sports.
In an interview, he said, “Understanding the administrative piece, with class schedules and facility schedules, there’s a lot of things I’ve gained in this position helping me with the transition.”
He also discussed the transition from athlete to coach, saying, “I’ve played about every sport under the sun. When this opportunity kind of came about, I was eager to jump on it. I love to compete. I’ve been playing tennis for a while now. I have a lot of coaching experience, so I figured I’d try and make the transition.”
Curtis takes over the coaching position from Sheila Bush, who had to step down in her first season as head coach after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She has helped Curtis move into the position.
“She’s been able to help me with some of the recruits that she was able to get, getting me in contact with them, he said.”
The position of tennis coach at Shippensburg has been a revolving door as of late, with Curtis being the fifth head coach since 2017. He is confident that he can follow Bush’s footsteps.
“She had this program going in the right direction, starting to build a really great culture. The ladies have been really welcoming, they already have a lot of things I’ve experienced from successful programs.”
Even with a strong foundation, there is a lot of work to do, taking over a program that has not had a winning season in the last 20 years. Curtis acknowledged how it is an uphill battle, sharing his philosophy of “If you take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”
Above all else, Curtis is relishing the opportunity to lead a team on campus. “I love chaos,” he said. “I love being the decision-maker. Being a coach is such a privilege, to be able to work with the same group of students and watch them progress on the court, in the classroom, in life.”
The women’s tennis spring season begins at the Spring Break Sports tournament in Windermere, Florida, on March 10.