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Friday, January 15, 2021

Half player, half coach

As he walks onto the tennis court, a 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, both dressed in workout clothes and holding rackets, ran toward their coach Daniel Barrera.

Known as Danny by his friends, Barrera is a student athlete at Pierce who plays for the tennis team. Outside of Pierce, he coaches tennis at Match Tough Tennis Academy in Encino. The 24-year-old music major and tennis player was also the former head coach of tennis team at Birmingham High School.

At the age of 13, Barrera started playing tennis, motivated by his sister’s joke toward him. This is his second season playing for the team, with his first being in 2010.

“My sister had asked me if I wanted to play and I said no because that’s kind of weird because I’m more competitive and she’s not. She said, ‘it’s probably too hard for you anyways’ so that kind of pushed me in a way that had me thinking that I would prove her wrong,” Barrera said.

Working as a coach at the Match Tough Tennis Academy in Encino for five years and only playing for the Pierce’s tennis team for two seasons, Barrera was able to connect to the players and his students at the same time.

To head coach Long Dao, Barrera is different from other players.

Barrera is a solid player and has outstanding skills in doubles, which is uncommon for the players on the team, according to Dao. He has trained for years to get to the level he is at now, looking for workout tips for tennis players that can help both him and the players he coaches. It’s this dedication to the sport that allows him to keep growing.

For Barrera’s teammates, he is someone who lightens up the team’s mood.

Kiran Dev, 20, says that Barrera is a smart player and his position gave him an advantage in playing.

“He’s a very smart player because he’s a coach. He knows the game. Since he’s a coach, he’s able to see the game in a different perspective,” Dev said.

Although he is a tennis coach off campus, Barrera said he doesn’t let this become a source of conflict between himself and Dao.

“My biggest problem is when he’s telling me a strategy, I have to go with it. Because if he tells me that maybe I should try a different strategy, I know as a coach, I’m thinking I know what’s better for me. But he is my coach so I have to listen and that’s always been the hardest thing for me. As a player, I think I know what I should be doing but since he’s watching me, he figures that I should be doing something different,” Barrera said.

“A lot of times I set the schedule out and I tell him that he needs to be here at a certain time and he needs to work his way,” Dao added.

Dao is also open to the idea of Barrera becoming the future head coach of the tennis team, years from now.

“He can possibly be become the future head coach of the team like me. You never know what happens in the future. One day down the road, when I’m not here anymore, whoever steps in, possibly Danny, hopefully they will like it as much as I do,” Dao said.

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