To quote New York Yankees great Yogi Berra, “Baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.” However, the quote that Springfield College professor and head tennis coach Chad Stoloff may be able to relate to his team more comes from retired tennis great, Jimmy Connors: “Tennis is like boxing at 90 feet.”
Many coaches and trainers in today’s sports world operate behind the mantra that each sport requires more mental power than it does physical skill, Stoloff is one of those coaches.
On Springfield’s campus, you can often find Stoloff trudging from class to office, meetings, and then practice sporting his maroon “Springfield College Tennis” sweatshirt with strings attached from the hood bouncing left and right along with the motion of his walk.
As the founder and CEO of A Disciplined Mind LLC, Stoloff works to attack the mental aspect of sports to aid athletes in enjoying themselves, achieving their goals, and reaching their maximum potential. Stoloff not only gets to portray his message to his athletes, but also to many more students through his Psychology of Sport class. The course focuses on helping each and every person to become their best self, aligning perfectly with the mission of Springfield College: “To educated students in Spirit, Mind, and Body for leadership in service to others.”
In 2015, he began his coaching position for the Pride, becoming the first full-time tennis coach in 20 years. Since he has been at the helm of the two tennis programs in Springfield, they own a combined record of 39-31; however, the numbers that play more significance to Stoloff are those that portray player success both on and off the court. Since his first season taking over the program, the Pride student-athletes have seen 31 International Tennis Association All-Academic honors.
This can be largely in part to Stoloff’s focus on putting oneself in the best position mentally to set yourself up for success. “I remember Chad playing in high school against an opponent who actually said that he couldn’t beat [Stoloff],” Eric Hansen, a high school friend of Stoloff, said. “Chad immediately knew that he had won that match.”
This confidence, after his decorated playing career, translated into coaching success at a few different universities and with top tennis athletes around the nation. Players like current Springfield graduate assistant Tanner DeVarennes proved their talent on the court prior Stoloff’s arrival, but lacked in the mental game. “He really helped control my emotion and aggression on the court,” DeVarennes said. “He always helped me regain my focus no matter what the score was or what the situation was like in the match.”
This desire for inspiration and education has always been rooted in Stoloff’s personality, especially in college. Many of his students today recognize his fondness for reading and his motivation. Not only did Stoloff exhibit a sense of urgency for success off the court, but on the court as well.
“To me, it’s not just about winning and losing, there are many bigger things at play. But if you do the simple disciplines day-in and day-out you’re going to live an extraordinary life,” Stoloff stated. “But if you make the errors in judgement, you’re going to settle and just take up space. I’m on a mission to inspire and educate people.”
During his time as a student-athlete with the Nevada Wolfpack from 1999-2002, he filled the team’s first singles and doubles positions and served as the team captain during his senior campaign.
“He was a very tactical player,” Ivan Anderson, a friend and former teammate of Stoloff’s explained. This tactical mindset led Stoloff to be listed as fourth all time for career doubles victories (23) and tied for fifth all time in doubles victories in a season (13).
However, these accolades would not have been possible without the aid of Stoloff’s parents, Marty and Stuart, who he says are were his biggest supporters.
Stoloff found his love for tennis through his parent’s recreational weekend matches and, along with his sister, gravitated towards the sport. Like any young kid, Stoloff has a desire to reach the pros and was putting himself in great position at a young age to do so.
For practice and lessons, his parents drove him two and a half hours from their home in Carson City, Nev. to Sacramento, Calif. At the under 12 level, Stoloff was ranked No. 1 in Northern California singles and top 20 in the country by the United States Tennis Association.
As Stoloff reached the high school level, he was feeling less motivated and experiencing burnout from the game. He dropped from top 20 in the nation to top 100 at the under 18 division.
Despite this distraction, Stoloff went on to the collegiate level of tennis and began his freshman year at the University of Utah, who displayed a top 50 program and featured a short drive to the mountains; a huge attraction for Stoloff given his likeness for skiing. Stoloff lasted no more than one semester at Utah before transferring home to Nevada.
At this moment, Stoloff thought that his tennis career had come to a close. The feelings of burnout began to return and thoughts of choosing a law enforcement or educational career path and solely focusing on academics took over. However, the positivity that his parents instilled in him kept him in the sport.
In Stoloff’s senior season, the team registered a record of 6-17, the best in his three seasons. But playing tennis was no longer a sole focus for Stoloff. Nonetheless, he graduated with a degree in political science and attended graduate school at San Diego State University where he accepted a position as an assistant tennis coach and found fascination in a sport psychology career.
In a conflict of interest, San Diego did not offer his desired program, which forced Stoloff to enter into an online course study at the United States Sports Academy and find an advisor at his university so he could continue to coach.
Stoloff would then travel to another assistant coaching position at the University of Hawaii and spent two years there as an assistant coach while continuing his graduate work.
Before achieving his current success with the Pride, Stoloff was the head coach at the University of Nevada, his alma mater, from 2005-2009. At 25 years old, he became one of the youngest head coaches in the country and achieved great success.
His team finished in third place in their conference, the highest the program had ever seen and moved into the top 50, taking victories over major programs such as: Oregon, Michigan, and San Diego State University.
In his tenure for the Nevada Wolfpack, Stoloff recruited two players who reached national rankings for Division I singles, one of which the coach mentored to competition for the Davis Cup, the premiere international team event for men’s tennis.
While the Pride have had some great success with Stoloff at the helm, he cares more about the effect that he can have in the lives of his players and students.
“The way I can make the biggest and most positive difference in this world is by educating people first so that they become problem solvers instead of later on, having them be problem creators,” Stoloff added.