Alumna Audra Hartwell returns to reverse roles from player to coach


Isabel Collop

JV tennis coach Audra Hartwell gives sophomore Betsy Weaver parade line up details before the Homecoming parade begins. Hartwell made a point to her players about having fun while also competing at a high level. “ I want tennis to be the best part of their day because it keeps them coming back,” Hartwell said. “I want them excited to come to practice or a match.”

Turning right at the stoplight into 14653 Clayton Road is not out of the ordinary.  Gearing up in Columbia Blue Longhorn apparel seems like an old habit. After a six-year hiatus from playing softball and running cross country, during high school, 2013 alumna Audra Hartwell has returned to coach the JV girls’ tennis team.

“It feels really cool to come back and be a part of an athletic program that was so influential to my high school experience,” Hartwell said. “I know how much coaches impacted me when I was in high school, and it is really cool to think I could do the same for current athletes. For example, Coach Tommie Rowe had an extreme impact on me in high school. As an eighth-grader, she told me that I needed to start lifting, so every week during the summer before freshman year, I woke up at 5 a.m. to go meet Coach Rowe and start a lifting regime

Working to understand the current program, Hartwell hopes to teach her players how to be successful on the tennis court.

“I hope to hold my athletes to a high expectation, which allows them to hold themselves accountable as well. I never want my athletes to feel like they can’t accomplish their goals or that I don’t believe in them. I want to help them set high goals and push themselves to accomplish them. I want girls to be able to self-assess, set their own goals and make plans to reach them,” Hartwell said. “I think strong relationships with your players are really important. When a coach and their players develop mutual respect, the players work harder for you, listens to what you say and also feel appreciated and supported.¨

Sophomore JV tennis player Lilly Francis is excited about starting the new season with a new coach.

“It’s really cool because she knows what it’s like to be us, and she can help us more in game situations and understands us more than another coach would,” Francis said. “She knows what it’s like to play in high school.”

JV tennis captain and junior Isabel Collop appreciates Hartwell’s help since she assumed a leadership position.

“[Hartwell] is very fun and outgoing, and she will help our team bond more. I think we will be more positive as a team because she’s very positive,” Collop said. “We were playing a practice match, and I was losing. She came over and told me she was rooting for me and that helped me gain confidence and play better.” 

Hartwell remembers old mentors growing up and is striving to become a role model just like the coaches she had.

“I usually build rapport pretty quickly with my athletes and my students. I am fairly young for a coach, and I went to West, so I automatically feel closer to them. I try to talk to players each day, ask about their day and learn more about them. I am a pretty goofy, so I also make jokes, lighten the mood, and try to get my players laughing,” Hartwell said. “As for my goals as a coach, I want to build strong relationships with my players.”