By Sebastián Salas
Ignacio “Nacho” Poncio became HU’s youngest head coach this season, leading the Men’s Tennis program to a well-fought fourth place in the conference. After wrapping up his exceptional tennis career with four All-Conference honors, the Argentinian graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2019 with a double major in Business Management and Marketing. As one door closed, another opened, and Nacho became an assistant coach for the Fall of 2019. Following Coach Eckert’s retirement, the opportunity arose for the 23-year-old to take the reins as head coach for the 2020-2021 season, and he did not hesitate.
Name one thing you love the most about tennis
The complexity. To play tennis requires technical knowledge on top of athletic ability and strategical thinking. It takes so much to become good at it; you have put in a lot of effort to succeed as a tennis player. As you improve, you become more disciplined, which helps you in many life areas outside of competitive sport.
What have been your biggest accomplishments and challenges in tennis?
I think going undefeated at home my junior and senior years is a decent accomplishment. Still, I would say that getting the opportunity to play my best tennis in college is my biggest accomplishment as a player. Also, I used to be pro player Eduardo Schwank’s sparring partner when I was younger, and I played Futures tournaments in Argentine. However, if I had to pick only one accomplishment, it would have to be becoming a head coach at such a young age.
On the other hand, the most challenging aspect of tennis for me is that it is an individual sport. I am an extrovert by nature, so I didn’t like being by myself for so long. I had to be resilient. A big reason why I enjoyed college tennis so much is that you represent more than just yourself. It brings all the things I love about tennis together with teamship.
How did you start coaching?
After my junior year of high school, I didn’t play for a year. I got burned out, quit tennis, and started giving lessons. I always liked the idea of helping people become better. I found gratification in connecting with people and inspiring them to become better while coaching at Tenis Par Ciegos and Cordoba Golf Club. Also, I have always been a good leader, so I considered myself well-suited for the head coach role.
When did you decide to become HUMT’s coach?
I never planned to become the head coach; it wasn’t a dream of mine either. The short explanation is that I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and things just worked out. I loved representing HU. I felt attached to my identity as a Forester and committed to the HUMT program, so I didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to step up and become the head coach.
Favorite thing about coaching
I love to see my players get better, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with me. If they can find a way to improve on their own, then I’m glad. I also love to be connected with my players. I am very intense during practices. I hit with them, and I talk to them a lot. I like to engage with them during matches and watch every single game. Outside of tennis, one of my favorite experiences as a coach has been seeing the team grow closer and become more like a family.
What are your goals for the HUMT program?
I think we have a good chance of getting into the NAIA Top 25 teams. My goal for next year is to get ranked, which may hopefully lead us to Nationals. This year Alejo got ranked in the top 50, and now the next step is to get there as a team.