When Mary Ellen Devlin was approached about the vacant high school tennis coaching position at Wissahickon High School, one thought entered her mind.
"I’ll have to check with my daughter," she said.
Devlin, a teacher at the Upper Dublin Sports Center and an active volunteer with USTA Jr. Team Tennis, is also the proud mother of three daughters – Ann Marie, 18, Maureen, 16, and Katherine, 14. At the time Devlin was contacted about the coaching vacancy, Ann Marie was a freshman in high school planning to play on the tennis team that fall.
"I didn’t want to jeopardize my relationship with Ann Marie," said Devlin. "I’m a mom first and I try to be mindful of that. Ann Marie said ‘Go for it, it’ll be fine.’ My girls have worked with various coaches and had been playing for years. They are just very receptive to someone committed to their best interest."
Now in her fourth year of coaching at the high school varsity level, Devlin is committed to one thing when it comes to coaching her daughters – having fun.
"The goal is success, but also to have fun," said Devlin. "If they didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t want them to pursue it. Tennis would be the only sport I’d coach with my own children. They earn the spot. It is not like other sports where there is a clock and I have to worry about getting everyone in the game. There is no subjectivity in tennis. You have to earn your spot."
So what do her daughters think of having their mom as a coach?
They think it’s pretty cool.
"It’s great," said sophomore Maureen. "The girls on the team are fine with it. They all like my mom and she is a great coach. I think sometimes people wonder if it is fair, but coaching tennis is different."
All three Devlin girls are involved with USTA Middle States programs as well, playing a variety of tournaments throughout the Section. Maureen even has the unique advantage of playing doubles with both of her sisters because she is the middle child.
"I can play up with Ann Marie, or Katherine can play up with me," she said. "We make good doubles partners because we understand each other."
Devlin includes Middle States events as part of the highlights in her daughters’ playing careers.
"Being a part of Zonal Team Tennis was a great accomplishment," said Devlin. "The team aspect is really stressed. Girls who we usually compete against now form one team, and that is so much fun."
Devlin said she plans to stick with coaching at the high school level, even after all three of her daughters move through the system.
"I love the game," she said. "It’s great energy, and I’d really like to keep this coaching thing going. It’s very rewarding for me to work with young people and see that college tennis is realistic goal for them."