This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.
Close Up

UB’s first championship coach

Kathy Twist became the first UB coach to win a MAC Championship when the women’s tennis team defeated Western Michigan last spring. Photo: PAUL HOKANSON

  • “You can’t coach the same every year, and that’s where a lot of coaches make a mistake.”

    Kathy Twist
    Head Coach, Women’s Tennis Team
Published: April 22, 2009

Kathy Twist is willing to share her secret to being a great coach. With 13 years experience coaching the UB women’s tennis team under her belt, Twist explains it simply as “being a good listener, whether it’s spoken or unspoken.” And, she adds, a great coach needs to have empathy. “If you can understand where they are coming from—then you can start shifting paradigms.”

Twist should know something about shifting paradigms. Last year she coached the women’s tennis team to UB’s first conference championship in any sport with a victory against the top-seeded Western Michigan Broncos.

On the heels of last year’s victory Twist says this year’s team is once again battling as one of the top three teams in the Mid-American Conference. And she’s up for the challenge with big plans to grow her team at the national level. But with young players and only one senior on the team this year, Twist tailors her coaching to her team’s personality. “You can’t coach the same every year, and that’s where a lot of coaches make a mistake,” she says.

A native Buffalonian, Twist started playing tennis when she was 12 to help with painful back problems caused by scoliosis. As an alternative to surgery, the doctor suggested she try playing a non-contact sport. Twist chose tennis and quickly fell in love with the sport. In tennis, there are no time outs or substitutions, and players have to play to the end. Twist says it gives her the opportunity to work on every aspect of herself—from the mental to the physical. “Tennis develops you as a whole person,” she says.

While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in nursing at D’Youville College, Twist played singles and doubles tennis, and lost only one singles match in four years. Before coming to UB to coach tennis, she was a nurse for 17 years with a number of Buffalo-area hospitals. Twist liked working in the high-paced, technical areas of nursing, such as the burn units and the emergency and intensive care wings. She compares her career as a nurse similarly to her career as a coach. “In nursing, too, you have to coach people to have a positive attitude to get better, you have to coach them to get back up on their feet and have the best quality of life they can have.”

In 1994, Twist took the position as part-time assistant coach of the women’s tennis team and also taught classes part-time at UB. The next year she was the men’s assistant coach. A year later she was offered the women’s full-time head coaching position, and she’s been in the role ever since.

In 2002, Twist was selected as the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) Eastern Coach of the Year. The award, one of the most prestigious given by the PTR, recognizes organization members who have demonstrated the highest standards in the coaching of player

Twist hasn’t given up her nursing skills entirely. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, she is one of the only coaches at UB allowed to teach. Each fall she leads the class “Responding to Emergencies,” teaching street first aid and CPR skills to students ranging from athletes who are interesting in coaching to medical students.