For Kyle Bailey, the plan was never to be a tennis coach. In his younger days, he saw himself becoming the next Jerry Maguire, but never at the helm of a Division 1 tennis program.
As the stars have aligned, Bailey has found himself in a successful coaching career that has now led him to the Queen City.
The Charlotte 49ers announced Bailey as the new men's head tennis coach in early September 2019 after he spent the last three years as an assistant tennis coach for The University of South Carolina.
“I felt like this is the right time for me,” said Bailey. “I’m really excited to get things started here.”
The journey for Bailey has been a long one and it started as a player at American University where he had a successful playing career with a team that made three NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure.
Those playing days weren't the reason Bailey chose the tennis coaching world, however. It was time spent away from the game that made him realize where he wanted to be.
Bailey suffered an injury late in his career and decided to stay an extra year at American to further his education. During that year off, Bailey decided to work with the Sports Information Department and even would do an internship with NBC Sports. He would work on media guides and help cover a variety of athletic events. It was a way to stay in the action and eventually pushed him into his current profession.
“I just felt so far away from [the] action,” said Bailey. “I think that’s why I chose coaching tennis because I just love to be a part of the action.”
After his stint with American was finally over, he started to ponder his decisions for a career. Bailey thought about everything from joining the military to going into journalism. But an assistant coaching job opened up at American and he took it.
From there, Bailey fell in love and jump-started his career. He went on to coaching high-level junior players at College Park. After getting married and quitting his job, coaching college tennis crossed his mind once again and he landed at Monmouth University.
“I moved my wife and daughter out to Saint Louis with family and figured out my next move,” said Bailey. “I then moved back by myself and into a little beach house near Monmouth and did that job for four months.”
There were rough days to start for Bailey and his new team but he would eventually lead the program to its first NCAA tournament appearance in his first and only season.
That caught the attention of some of his fellow college coaches and found his next job spontaneously. While on a phone call with the head South Carolina tennis coach looking to schedule a match for Mommunth, things took a turn.
“I was calling the head coach to get South Carolina on our schedule, and next thing you know, he’s asking me to fly out and be his assistant,” said Bailey.
Knowing how big of an opportunity he was given, Bailey and his family packed up and moved to Columbia.
From 2016-2019, he helped the Gamecocks improve their recruiting and helped lead the team to three straight NCAA appearances. He recruited and brought in 2019 NCAA D1 singles champion Paul Jubb.
It was an enjoyable experience for Bailey, but there were more opportunities on the horizon, specifically just across the state line in North Carolina.
Bailey has known of Charlotte throughout his career, but the tennis program caught his attention a couple years ago when he came with South Carolina for a match against the 49ers last fall. He was impressed with what he saw.
“I remember rolling up in the team van and just telling the others guys how nice it was and equal to South Carolina in many ways,” said Bailey. “I knew that if I could just get kids on campus and see what’s going on, they could have the same feeling I had.”
Once the Charlotte job was offered, Bailey knew this was another opportunity he could not pass up. After a meeting with the Charlotte athletic department, it was apparent the two sides had the same vision.
“In talking with the athletic department, I felt very similar to them,” Bailey said. “They were talking about building something and not being mediocre; I knew that’s what I wanted to do and build something special here.”
Not only was Bailey on board with the program, but his family fell in love with the city as well.
“This place checked all the boxes on the list so to speak,” Bailey said. “My wife and I both love it here in the Carolinas.”
Bailey is no stranger to building programs and knows he’s got some work ahead of him at Charlotte the next couple of years. The 49ers have an older group of players that will graduate soon and recruiting with be essential, which is something Bailey has been fairly good at.
Before any of that can happen, he wants to set a standard off the court and instill a work ethic in his players that goes beyond the court.
“The first thing we are really trying to work on is getting the culture right and getting the guys to have a certain standard of excellence for everything we’re doing,” said Bailey. “If we can get the right environment, we can be pretty successful.”
Bailey has already seen some improvement during their first fall tournament in Cary that was hosted by Duke. A pair of 49ers picked up wins and the team as a whole put together some hard-fought matches. The team will have another showing in October at the River City Open hosted by the University of Richmond and then again at the ITA Regionals back in Cary.
Those tournaments are just the beginning of what Bailey hopes is a program-changing tenure.
“When it comes to expectations, our goals are to win the conference and get this program on a national stage,” said Bailey. “My goal has always been to be a part of a nationally recognized program, and I think we can do that here.”