Not even bad hips can keep Marcos Giron away from tennis.
After learning that he had to undergo hip surgery and put his professional career on hold, Giron, a former UCLA standout and the 2014 NCAA singles champion, reached out to UCLA men’s tennis coach Billy Martin about coming back to Westwood as a volunteer assistant coach.
Giron was fortunate that a spot on the staff recently opened up after Rikus de Villiers, the former volunteer assistant coach, left UCLA to serve as a private coach. Giron’s success and experience both on the professional circuit and at UCLA have helped him become a crucial member of the team.
“He’s invaluable for us,” Martin said. “I think the guys realize that he’s been there, done that. The guys respect what he’s done, and they won’t question his thought process, so that to me is something that you really can’t get (from anyone else).”
For most of the season, Giron was on crutches, hobbling from court to court to observe players. Even though his crutches are now gone, he still meticulously watches the Bruins for any issues or adjustments that need to be made, and during breaks in play, he leans in and gives advice.
“It’s great having him around – he gives us a lot of pointers and a lot of coaching during the matches,” said sophomore Martin Redlicki. “It’s always nice to have an extra set of eyes on you, like another perspective, and his experiences that he shares with us.”
Sometimes Giron reminds the players to focus on a specific stroke or not to get too frustrated if their opponent is playing well. Mental toughness and preparation, he said, are essential to success at the collegiate and professional levels of tennis.
“I always want to talk with the guys beforehand and make sure they have a game plan, and then see if they’re going out and making it happen,” Giron said. “If their plan isn’t working, then we have to adjust, but if they’re not even doing it in the first place, then I’ll give them ways to work on it.”
Giron is also largely responsible for the resurgence of sophomore Logan Staggs, who said he struggled while playing too defensively early in the season. After Giron suggested that the sophomore play more aggressively with his forehand, Staggs has won six of his last seven matches – all in straight sets – and has clinched UCLA’s past two wins.
“We have a father-son relationship,” Staggs said. “As soon as we sat down and had a conversation, we found our common ground. He just seems to know how I play and seems to read my mind. He’s also the one who’s constantly reminding me to use my forehand more and to move up in the court.”
Although Giron said he will be back playing in professional tournaments in August, he didn’t rule out coming back to coach once his playing career is over.
“I love tennis. Right now, obviously my goal is to make it as a professional, and I can definitely see myself at the end doing that,” Giron said. “But when my competing days are done, I may come back and one day coach (at) UCLA. I just love being around the guys and helping them.”