Each Friday during the 2017-18 academic year, the conference office will release a SCAC Spotlight feature story. For the first 13 weeks, the focus of these feature stories will be former student-athletes who played at an SCAC institution and went on to become head coaches in the conference.
In this, the ninth SCAC Spotlight feature, we sit down with Schreiner University's Head Tennis Coach Austin Carrola, who is so grateful for his experiences at SU.
Austin Carrola grew up in a small town so when it came to looking for higher education, a giant college wasn’t a good fit for him.
Schreiner University seemed appealing because it was only an hour away from home, they had a competitive program and was small enough that he felt more at home.
Still interested in lacing up is tennis shoes and restringing his racquet, Carrola filled out an athletics questionnaire after being accepted into the university and then-coach Wade Morgan called him the next day.
“Of course, I’m thrilled,” Carrola said. “I’m an 18-year-old high school kid who is being called by a head coach in a college. To me, I was honored.”
Now, Carrola’s mind was set on becoming a Mountaineer.
Carrola built quite the impressive resume as a tennis player for Schreiner.
Once in his recruit’s shoes, Carrola relates to his student-athletes on a different level. He believes it helps give him a leg-up in the recruiting competition.
Since growing up in small-town Blanco, Texas, many college coaches overlook the “small town” standouts which Carrola was in high school. Since many of the smaller schools and communities don’t play in the biggest high school tournaments in the state or extremely tough opponents, many of those small town athletes are “under the radar”.
That’s what Carrola looks for in his recruiting path.
“It’s not impossible to find a diamond in the rough,” Carrola said. “There’s always that handful of kids out there that are waiting to be discovered.”
Once Carrola has a potential student-athlete on campus, he loves to point out some of his favorite Schreiner selling points.
Professors love supporting athletics and are willing to work with athletes in balancing sports and schooling, which Carrola can attest to himself as a member of the SCAC Student Athlete Academic Honor Roll all four years of his undergrad.
Carrola also loves pointing out the small campus setting allows students to build strong relationships with each other in and out of the classroom.
“One of my best memories is the fact that I connected with so many people because of the small campus, small school, small student body,” Carrola said. “I was able to connect with so many different people, every time I walked to class I either knew someone or I knew of them. There wasn’t a stranger that I had never seen before so I made a lot of lifelong friendships.”
The relationships Carrola built while a student helped him get to his position today.
Up until his last month of college, Carrola never thought about becoming a coach. One of SU’s assistant coaches had taken a job elsewhere leaving a vacancy in the coaching staff. Interested in the position, when Coach Morgan called Carrola and offered him the position, Carrola “jumped with joy” and took the position.
“I’m really glad that the opportunity came knocking when it did,” Carrola said. “It was really perfect timing.”
Carrola notes he never saw himself going elsewhere after that point because SU to him was perfect.
“This is the perfect opportunity to stay at SU a little longer and stay connected with the team,” Carrola said.
After putting in his time as an assistant for two years, Schreiner offered Carrola a step up to become the head coach of the tennis program.
“I think it’s rare that you’d find someone that was a player at the college for four years, then an assistant coach for a little while, then they become the head coach,” Carrola said. “I think that’s super rare and that’s something I’m really grateful for and I feel very blessed.”
Previous SCAC Spotlights:
12|08|2017 - Cameron Hill, Trinity University
12|01|2017 - Janson Hightower, Southwestern University
11|17|2017 - Sam Davidson, Schreiner University
11|10|2017 - Mark Hudson, Austin College
10|27|2017 - Matt Barber, University of Dallas
10|20|2017 - Jeherme Urban, Trinity University
10|13|2017 - David Foley, Centenary College
10|06|2017 - Emily Daum, Trinity University
09|29|2017 - Ryan Dodd, Austin College