Longtime Windermere Prep tennis coach Mandy Rosenfield brings a lifetime of knowledge to the court.
By Nate Marrero
Sometimes the path we least expect to take ends up becoming the most gratifying.
Windermere Prep head tennis coach Mandy Rosenfield never thought that she would be a coach during her playing career.
“Honestly, never,” Rosenfield said. “A lot of my friends who play tennis have become coaches, but it was just never on my agenda. But now I just go, ‘Yeah, this is absolutely meant to be.’”
The roots of Rosenfield’s tennis career began when she was a child. Her parents were members of a tennis club in England, and her older brother played tennis. Like most younger siblings, Rosenfield decided to follow the same path.
Rosenfield rose up the ranks and eventually played in the juniors at Wimbledon in 1984. In 1985, she turned pro and went on to play at Wimbledon for seven of the next eight years.
Rosenfield quickly became one of Great Britain’s best, having been ranked as high as third in the country and nationally ranked just outside the top 100. She also played in the Grand Slams, the Federation Cup and the Wightman Cup.
Of all Rosenfeld’s moments on the court, playing Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon stands out. Navratilova won 59 Grand Slam titles and nine Wimbledon singles championships in her career.
“I played Martina in the second round,” Rosenfield said. “We played in the middle of a Saturday on the old Court One. The press — because I’m British — the press went nuts. It was just like a really big occasion. … When I played Martina, I was fine. And then I walked on the court, and I literally was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t remember how to play.’ … And then I was OK once I got into it.”
In 1993, Rosenfield was forced to retire because of injuries. Coincidentally, it led to her focusing on studying physical therapy, and she eventually earned a first-class honors degree in 1997. Then, in 1998, she had her first daughter. Rosenfield managed to balance being a mother, playing home international matches and working as a physical therapist. That came to an end in 2000, when her second daughter was born and she transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom.
A year after her third daughter was born in 2004, Rosenfield and her family decided to move to Florida for a year. The Sunshine State would become their permanent home.
“After about nine months, we were like, ‘Should we stay a bit longer?’” she said. “And obviously now it’s like 16 years now we’ve been here. There were so many positives coming here. School was like a breath of fresh air for us. Seeing our kids in there smiling — (it was) very different from England. Just the opportunities with sports, the outdoor life, and Disney, the beach — it was a no-brainer.”
In 2008, Rosenfield became interested in coaching while Windermere Prep was looking to build its own sports program. The principal asked Rosenfeld to help, which led to her teaching tennis at the school for a little over a month. That eventually led her to become the head tennis coach for the Lakers.
“The principal asked, ‘Would you like to do an academy or do tennis lessons?’ And they were really up for it,” Rosenfield said. “So we started off literally just me with my little pens that flew away every other week because of the weather, and that’s how it really started. The first six to eight weeks were a real success … it just grew from there.
“It definitely takes time,” she said of transitioning from player to coach. “Being able to explain something like, ‘This is how you play a forehand.’ I don’t need to think about it, but actually imparting your knowledge to kids and even adults, it’s definitely an art. You need to find a way to impart your knowledge so that they understand. Not only that, but being able to explain it in many different ways because not everyone learns the same way. I think that was maybe the hardest thing.”
In her 14 years at Windermere Prep, the girls tennis team made it to the state finals in 2016 and 2017 and became two-time double state winners. But despite those results, nothing has been more special than being able to share her journey with her three daughters and being able to coach them.
“I’m so blessed,” Rosenfield said of being able to coach at the same school her children attend. “I’m really glad, you know: I get to see my kids, I feel like I’ve introduced them to a sport that they’ll have their whole life. It’s a great way for them to meet people and keep fit. We play as a family. It’s been a real blessing, honestly.”
Rosenfield’s two older daughters already graduated from Windermere Prep, and her youngest is set to graduate in 2022.
Although spring is still a ways away, Rosenfield’s goals have altered slightly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although winning is important, giving her players a positive experience and helping them build skills that will help them not only in tennis but also in life has become more important to her.
“Of course, we’d love to be state champions,” Rosenfield said. “I think what I’ve learned from COVID is actually it’s the participation — getting the opportunity to play as a team, make some really good friendships, obviously to improve and build confidence, and make it a really positive experience. If from that we get amazing results, then that’s even better.”