Saturday, May 9, 2009

From Favored Coach to Tennis Terrorist?

Oh my. What a shocking turnaround. And what an unfortunate way for a group of women players to go about sending a message to their coach. It’s one thing to be pissed off with the woman. Who has not had their share of irksome feelings towards a pushy coach? But to gang up on her collectively and send out these negative messages through the media? Yikes! Problem-solving 101 this is not.

I’m referring of course to the ugly, nasty, messy situation involving female tennis coach Dawna Prevette, and her team of disgruntled women at Penn State. And yes I am emphasizing the gender on both sides because the passive-aggressive and mean-spirited nature of this attack is distinctly feminine. As a straight-shooting, straight-talking woman myself, I often feel out of place in the world of nasty subtle innuendo -- the kind that women often specialize in, the kind in which they join forces to bring down another woman. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I have never met Dawna Prevette. I do not know her personally. I am not defending her. I am however criticizing the process by which she is being criticized. And I am thinking about the implications of this nasty, messy, ugly process for all women tennis players who aspire one day to coach tennis at the college level or beyond.

It is a hard enough struggle to try to break through the barriers of top-level success, a sphere that remains dominated by penises and testosterone. But the truth is that if you are brilliant -- because good isn't good enough, you have to be far better than good -- so if you are a brilliant woman, along the way you will always run across the odd man or woman who are willing to lend you a helping hand. But sadly, it is always women who will conspire behind your back to bring you down.

There are very few women coaching tennis at the college level or beyond. Most tennis coaches, even in the world of women’s tennis, are men. Those few female tennis coaches who break through the ceiling -- women like Dawna Prevette -- inevitably help to pave the way for others simply by being there. They are no different from female astronauts, soldiers, or lobbyists -- women who penetrate a bastion of male success and occupy it, sometimes defiantly. Even if they are bitches, in fact, especially when they are bitches, they help pave the way for others.

Even if one assumes that she might have gotten the odd helping hand here or there, it’s hard to discount that Dawna Prevette seems to have earned her success the hard way. As an undergraduate at North Texas, she was the No. 1 in singles during her junior and senior years, serving as team captain in her senior year. She earned other accolades as well, including the Big West Female Scholar Athlete of the Year, was named to the Raptor All-Eagle Academic Team, and served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Scholarship Director. Notably, Prevette also twice won the North Texas' Team Eagle award for best work ethic and team spirit.

After a five year stint as head coach at her alma mater, in 2006 Prevette was invited to serve as assistant tennis coach at Baylor University. A year later, in the fall of 2007, she accepted the offer to coach at Penn State. Prevette acknowledged in an interview that she was not looking to leave Baylor but that “Penn State's tradition and strong school spirit made the job more appealing and made me want to come here to coach.” The Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper, wrote a warmly welcoming profile on her, acknowledging that Prevette had introduced new training routines that emphasized overall fitness, strength-training, and a focus on team-building both on and off the court.

A year and a half later, and apparently the worm has turned. The same Collegian has become the conduit for some of the nasty, petty, ugly complaints against the coach. One woman’s father claims that his daughter got suspended for removing pepperoni from a slice of pizza. Another woman, recruited from Europe but already chock full of American entitlement, claims that she got dismissed for not making eye contact. Others say that the coach is abusive, bullying, and constantly threatens to take away their scholarships. Players seem to be practically accusing Prevette of being a tennis terrorist.

Was there no other way for a group of women to express their dissatisfaction with a coach? Was there no other avenue for a group of parents to encourage their daughters to develop and practice the skills of communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution? Would many of these complaints have been made were Prevette a man and therefore not expected to be sugary sweet, kind, and nurturing all the flipping time? Points to ponder, no?

Prevette’s response? “If they don't want to work hard and be competitive and fight and improve, then maybe this isn't the place for them.” On paper I do not at all disagree with her. If your vision is that of preparing players for the blood sport called professional tennis, then you really have no use for whiners wanting to run home to their daddies to complain about their entitlement to slices of pepperoni.

8 comments:

PSU Tennis Boyfriend said...

As the boyfriend of one of the players, and having attended every home match of the Penn State Women's Tennis team for the past two years I can confirm that the accusations against Coach Prevette are 100% true and that the Collegian only scratched the surface of the disturbing problems and allegations regarding Dawna. She is a vindictive and neurotic coach on a power trip, and she needs to be dismissed from the university and banned from coaching again period so that nobody else has to suffer under the mental abuse that she brings about. If you would like to know more about the story email me at psutennisstory@gmail.com and I will seek to clarify anything I can that isn't classified due to the NCAA investigation or possible pending lawsuit.

Kim said...

Like you Tennis Chick, I know nothing about this situation. But I do know people do not like change. In other team situations, I've seen similar negative responses when the someone new takes over and has a different attitude and a different way of coaching. Obviously the new coach will have, and is entitled to have, a different approach than the old coach and I'm assuming the players who have remained are unhappy with this change. But part of maturing is learning to roll with the punches and maybe its time they learned how to do that.

PSU Tennis Boyfriend said...

Lol, wow I guess I'm invisible. The girls on the team don't care about philosophical differences to coaching or different approaches to style, they actually were looking forward to playing for a new coach until they found out who this woman really was. Not only were the players who were retained from the old coach unhappy with her, but so were Coach Prevette's own personal recruits.

The fact still remains that she was dismissed from her last head coaching job for abuse, lied in her interview to get the job at PSU, and is now hurting a new group of girls. Dawna Prevette is a habitual mental abuser as well as has personal issues that make her incapable of coaching at any level.

"Rolling with the punches" isn't an issue when you constantly live in fear of having your scholarship revoked for a made up reason and being deported from the country (for foreigners without a scholarship) or losing your chance at an education for American citizens.

Either way karma is a female dog and I hope that what goes around comes around, but until then I hope the investigations find enough to get rid of her from the university and hopefully ban her from the NCAA permanently, because I wouldn't wish the suffering she dishes out on anyone, not even Coach Prevette.

Anonymous said...

This chick sounds like a huge bitch. Hopefully PSU will see the light and fire her ass before next season!

Anonymous said...

She was crap at Borger High School, crap at UNT (as both a player and coach) and crap at Baylor, why did anyone expect anything different at PSU?

Anonymous said...

If you don't know her, don't fucking comment. This so called coach used scholarships to scare and threaten her players. She cried in meetings telling the girls how her husband beats her and how she can't have kids. When the team lost a game, she runs away and cries in the corner. What kind of a coach is this? I'll tell you....a person who doesn't know shit about tennis, professionalism, and how to motivate an ant let alone a human being.

Penn State really fucked up by hiring Dawna and fucked up more by not getting rid of her.

Look at the results....when has Penn state ever been absolute last in the big ten?

Great job Dawna, congratulations....you have successfully guided Penn state tennis into the shit hole! First coach at Penn state ever to do so.

Recruits: think twice before going to her program.... Dawna is a bitch and you will suck at tennis within two weeks under her coaching.

Anonymous said...

I want to comment on this paragraph:

There are very few women coaching tennis at the college level or beyond. Most tennis coaches, even in the world of women’s tennis, are men. Those few female tennis coaches who break through the ceiling -- women like Dawna Prevette -- inevitably help to pave the way for others simply by being there. They are no different from female astronauts, soldiers, or lobbyists -- women who penetrate a bastion of male success and occupy it, sometimes defiantly. Even if they are bitches, in fact, especially when they are bitches, they help pave the way for others.


To whoever wrote the above:

I agree that not many women occupy positions like Dawna Prevette's position. And, it takes quite an unbelievable women to get such a position. I disagree that Dawna Prevette earned this position and I disagree that she should be at this position. Here are some reasons:

1. North Texas is a really low quality tennis college. There is no real way to get talent to go to North Texas. Therefore, Dawna Prevette with her limited tennis ability and knowledge was able to play there.

2. North Texas hired Dawna to coach tennis there right after she graduated. So looks like they were really desperate.

3. Every single one of Penn State's tennis players currently and in the past could beat Dawna in a tennis match 6-0, 6-0. Now, it is probably pretty difficult for a Division 1 tennis player to take advice and coaching from someone who can't hit a serve or backhand. How can you teach how to hit a serve or backhand if you yourself have no idea how to hit one? So, tennis skills in her department are severely lacking.

4. Prevette was asked to leave at North Texas for the same abuse she is currently doing at Penn State to many of the players. RED FLAG? uhh, yea.

5. And about this...They are no different from female astronauts, soldiers, or lobbyists -- women who penetrate a bastion of male success and occupy it, sometimes defiantly....Dawna has had no success infact, she had consistently finished at the BOTTOM of the Big 10 since she has held the position. So basically, Dawna has defiantly occupied the bottom of the Big 10! WONDERFUL! CONGRATULATIONS!

6. Maybe you...the author of this article....should reconsider your theory of Dawna being like an astronaut. I am really not seeing or understanding the analogy.

Does anybody else get it?

Anonymous said...

Sexual abuse isn't the only abuse that has been going on at Penn State, but now that they are finally cleaning house and getting rid of the enablers that held the power positions at PSU athletics, maybe they will finally do something about their abusive women's tennis coach. Dawna Prevette should not be in a position to coach. She has not abided by the NCAA rules and just as PSU swept the sexual abuse under the rug they have also swept numerous complaints about this woman's abuse. What is it going to take a serious injury or worse.