April 5, 2005
Senior women’s tennis student-athlete Mihaela Moldovan sat down with former women’s tennis head coach Anne Davis to discuss the history of women’s tennis at Florida State.
Davis was a coach at Florida State from 1980 to 1987. The 1980 Metro Conference Coach of the Year compiled a 141-105 record over her eight seasons leading the Garnet and Gold. The USF alum led FSU to its highest national ranking of No. 18 and best seeding of sixth-place in the 1982 AIAW Championships.
What is your earliest memory of FSU?
I was a very young coach. I was 22 years old and just a year out of school when I came here, so everything was new and exciting. It was also new in that it was at the beginning of Title IX. Title IX was the act by which any school who receives federal funding has to offer equal programs for men and women. So, the money that Title IX gave was directed to improve women’s programs and offer more opportunities for female athletes. At that time, Barbara Palmer, who was the women’s athletic director, was one of the leaders in helping get Title IX through. So I went from being a graduate assistant to having one of the better jobs in the country in about two years. It was like that for most of the coaches who were hired at that time; we were all young, it was our first big job but it was pretty exciting.
How was the transition from student athlete to being a coach?
It was hard. After I graduated from USF, I stayed there for a year as an assistant coach, so I had a little bit of time to transition but then going to be a head coach was difficult. A lot of the time you fake it till you make it. You are just learning and asking a lot of questions, seeking the guidance of the coaches who have been around more. You make a lot of mistakes along the way but, hopefully you learn from them as you go along.
What was recruiting like when you were a player at USF and as a coach at FSU? Did you have any scholarships?
When I was a student athlete at USF there was not a lot of recruiting going on in college tennis. I just went there because I lived in that area. Recruiting did not mean making phone calls or sending letters to players. The first year I played at the number one and two positions but I did not get anything paid for. Then the second year I got my books paid for and I was really excited and my family was really excited too. When I came to FSU there was more money but recruiting was still not as big of a deal as it got to be towards the end of my career in coaching. By that time we had eight full scholarships and I can say that it was the recruiting that drove me out of coaching. Recruiting became really tough. It wasn’t so much about what you did on the court, and that’s the part I love, or the way you dealt with the athletes, but it was more advertising and marketing. You were constantly on the phone talking to 17-year old kids and you were trying to discover who you were actually recruiting. Was it the athletes, the parents or the coaches? It is very time consuming.
Do you think the programs should have a different person who works with the coach and help them recruit?
I think it would be helpful. I think the assistant now has also responsibilities in working together with and helping the head coach in the recruiting process. So, it is not solely head coach’s task.
How did you get students to come to FSU?
Recruiting itself, it’s not bad, but I did not like the demands of recruiting. I think coming to Florida is an easy sell. I think that was a big part of what we had to offer. We had a good program and the fact that the administration was committed to building the women’s sports represented another advantage. And sometimes you just get lucky. Someone like Suzanne Doumar had gone to another school and transferred to FSU because she had family ties to this school. We also had foreigners in the team. We had a girl from Australia and two from Canada, but going after the foreign players was not as big then as it is now. Although, when I was playing, my team had students from Sweden, Australia and England. I think a lot depends on the coaches and the connections they have. I love the foreign athletes. I thought they appreciated the opportunity more than Americans. They were more worldly and they generally knew more about the U.S., its government and how it ran more than the kids who were from the US.
Obviously, the Scott Speicher Tennis Center was not built when you were here. Where did the tennis team play?
On some courts that are not around anymore. We played our matches and held practices on Montgomery courts that were located next to the swimming pool. Now, there is a parking lot there instead of those courts. Then my second year we started playing our matches at the Tully Gym courts, currently Scott Speicher Tennis Center, when the men were not playing. And then eventually men and women started to practice and play matches at the same site, at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center. We did not have locker rooms. I got some many parking tickets from not wanting to carry the equipment all the time. We did not have an equipment room, or stringer. I strung the requests for the girls. The outfits were made of polyester.
On one of your earlier bios, you were quoted as saying – `FSU had a very strong tennis tradition. We’re trying to rebuild the program to what it once was.’ Since our records don’t capture the early years, what strong tradition was in place?
The fact that FSU had one of the largest women’s college tournaments. There was a really strong sense of tradition that had fallen down a little. The person that was here before me had done a tremendous job of really starting to build the program up and a lot of times, as each successive coach comes in the new coach get more things, things that the old coach was fighting to get.
Do you think FSU should have indoor courts?
Being raised in Florida, I actually think that the expense of the indoor courts will outweigh the benefits. My guess is that the indoor courts will not be used that much because in Florida, if it’s beautiful outside you don’t want to play indoor. However, I understand that it’s probably a necessary thing to compete with other schools. It will be a plus from a recruiting stand point.
How many programs were there around the country?
Most schools had tough tennis programs but what has changed is that the schools that were strong when I was a student or coach are no longer top schools now and the main reason is the money. There were a lot of good programs but the majority of the programs developed after Title IX was introduced. FSU was one of the first schools to get a lot of money from Title IX, therefore our program went up and then other schools caught up with us and passed us. For instance, Indiana, which was a small school in terms of athletics received funding from Title IX which allowed the program to develop and now is one of the top schools in athletics.
Three of your first four teams were 20-match winners? What was the key to success?
The first four years, I can really say because I was learning along with my students too. I was lucky because I was left with good players. However, we had better teams later on that did not do quite as well. I believe that part of the reason was because the competition got better as we went along. We always had a good solid team.
What does a team need to be successful?
They need good communication and for the staff to be able to balance the needs and the goals of the individual with the needs and goals of the team. A big part to being successful is a coach who is flexible and willing to learn from the student athletes as well.
How was the environment on campus? Was there support towards women’s sport?
The support was just beginning to develop. They had just started a Seminole Boosters Club. At that time, the big emphasis was women’s basketball. It was generally one group of boosters for all women’s sports whereas now each individual sport has its own Boosters group, which is fantastic. It is remarkable to go to the tennis banquet and see 400 people getting involved and supporting the team.
While at FSU, you wore many hats. What were your responsibilities outside of coaching?
Part of the time I was helping with academic advising and then for a while I became assistant for the women’s athletic director. And I think the first year I was here I had a part time job as a waitress too. During that period you had to do everything. There was one secretary for all the coaches in women’s sports.
Was the emphasis on academics same as it is today?
Yes, but not as strict. When the NCAA took over women’s sports, the rules for academics became stricter and the universities had to keep a certain academic standard. Therefore, the emphasis changed within the university too.
What are some of the most interesting things you have seen over the past 25 years at FSU?
The change in the environment is amazing. The facilities have developed tremendously offering student athletes a lot of opportunities to excel in their sport. Also the quality of athletes that are here is amazing. The quality of the games has improved as well. It is a remarkable change in every aspect of the sport from 25 years ago.