Tennis coach Jenny Mainz retiring after this season

Deana Nichols, Contributing Writer

Of all the head coaches in The University of Alabama Athletics program, Nick Saban, Nate Oats and Patrick Murphy may come to mind first. Their programs have flourished in recent years, and all three men have had a true and lasting impact on UA athletics. 

Yet none of them are The Dean, Jenny Mainz, the women’s tennis coach whose nickname came from being the longest tenured head coach at Alabama. 

The Dean has shaped student-athletes into successful scholars and competitors longer than any other, investing time into players’ educations, the program’s athletics and the communities they call home to form a truly remarkable program.  

To all her fellow Alabama head coaches, SEC tennis competitors and the sports world, she is the definition of dedication to a program.  

After spending 26 seasons leading Alabama women’s tennis, though, Mainz will be retiring at the end of this season. Her last match in the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium was Sunday, April 16. 

Outside of her long career at Alabama, she is also the second longest-tenured women’s tennis coach in SEC history. Mainz said she has loved every minute of her career.  

“It’s probably the greatest thing that’s happened to me in my life,” Mainz said.  

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said Mainz has accomplished incredible things in her 26 years at the University.  

“Team-by-team, she has built an outstanding program, one that excels on the court, in the classroom and in the community,” said Byrne after Mainz announced her retirement. “We are extremely proud of all she has accomplished over the past 26-years through her amazing work ethic, positive outlook and great passion for her sport and the Crimson Tide. 

For Mainz, choosing to retire was a decision she took time mulling over — leaving a program after nearly 30 years at its helm is a big step. 

Mainz first made her appearance as the Alabama head coach in 1998. Her debut team consisted mostly of people she found by recruiting around the University’s campus. 

“I went to PE classes, sorority houses and recruited out of the rec courts,” Mainz said. “I asked if anybody had a year or two of high school experience and asked if they would walk on the tennis team.”  

The team went 0-21 overall and 0-10 in the SEC, but Mainz never saw it as a defeat.  

“It’s part of the story,” Mainz said. “Everybody’s got their story. It’s what’s made me appreciate the good times and the endure the bad times.”  

After struggling to culminate wins in the early seasons, the tide turned in Mainz’s fourth season at Alabama, in 2001 — her first winning season (16-10). 

“Our first big road match that fourth year was at Florida State [University], and they were ranked in the Top 25,” Mainz said. “We went in there and we beat them. I remember calling my parents right from the tennis courts and I said ‘I’m staying. We’re going to win and I’m staying.’”  

During her time at Alabama, Mainz has accumulated numerous titles and wins. Some of those titles include International Tennis Association National Coach of the Year, a Blue Gray National Tennis Hall of Famer and three-time SEC Coach of the Year. On the wins side, Mainz led the Crimson Tide to its first conference title and took the team to 15 of its 17 NCAA Team Tournaments.  

In 2014, Mainz’s tennis team made program history reaching No. 6 in the ITA rankings — the highest final standings at Alabama.  

“The neat thing about it is, you’re surrounded by champions,” Mainz said.   

Outside of Alabama, Mainz has made an impact. Georgia women’s tennis head coach Jeff Wallace — the only SEC women’s tennis head coach who has coached longer than Mainz —  has been coaching alongside Mainz in the SEC her entire career. Although they have always been on opposing sides of the net, they have built a relationship off the tennis court over the years. 

“Every time, whether they play in Athens or whether we play in Tuscaloosa, [it’s nice] getting to see her and getting to catch up,” Wallace said. “It’s a little bit more not about tennis, the team and all that, but a little bit more about ‘How are you doing as a person,’ and ‘What’s going on in your life?’” 

As a fellow SEC coach and friend, Wallace has had the opportunity to see Mainz reach new levels during her time at Alabama. He said he considers Mainz to be one of the greatest to ever do it.  

“She’s a legend in the game,” Wallace said.  

In her time at Alabama, Mainz said she has strived to make a difference in the lives of everyone she encounters, not just in their athletic performance.  

“It wasn’t always about the wins and losses, it was about recruiting character, recruiting integrity, competing with everything you had, but doing it the right way,” Mainz said. 

Alabama’s tagline is “Where Legends are Made,” and Mainz created that environment by walking in the legacy that her father had paved for her. He showed her that a real leader focuses more on those around them.  

“He always taught me to be good to everyone,” Mainz said. “To show respect, kindness, gratitude. To give back. To make things better than when you arrived. That it’s not about me, it’s about other people.” 

When Mainz steps off the court, she wants to be known as more than just a tennis coach; she wants to be known for what she has done for others. Mainz has left that impact on her former players, one being Alba Cortina Pou, who played for the Crimson Tide 2017-2021.  

“[She taught me] the importance of being grateful and saying thank you,” Pou said. “Coach Jenny genuinely cares about everyone and is very involved in the community. … [She] is amazing at building relationships and always makes sure to appreciate the people around her.” 

As Mainz gets ready to enter a new chapter in life, her time at the University and the impact she has had on the women’s tennis program can’t be forgotten. 

“We can’t begin to express our gratitude to Jenny for the way she and her program have represented The University of Alabama,” Byrne said. “We are excited to see where the future takes her and will always count her among this department’s great leaders.”