Bob MacKay”s Values Have Always Stuck

Troy Cornell

Throughout his career, Bob MacKay knew only one thing: winning.

Whether its teaching his son Robbie the importance of understanding teamwork, or getting his tennis teams to fight and claw their way through every point and every set, MacKay’s coaching has taught lessons that are simply life changing.

“As you grow older, and try to go to college and try to get a job, that ability to compete and to try to be the best person you can be is something I learned from Bob [Mackay],” said sophomore team captain Ryan Stanbury.

But that word toughness, what does it mean? And how can it be taught?

“It’s taught by building confidence through competition.” Said MacKay.

The toughness that MacKay brought to his teams may have simply just been not saying a word to his players during a tough match, but as the seasons wore on it became more and more apparent that everything that makes MacKay tough, is everything that makes him all the more affable, and all the more special to his players.

“Bob is a truly incredible coach, truly incredible friend of mine, and a truly incredible mentor and confidant,” said Stanbury.

“I wish I could always play tennis for Bob.”
Stanbury had the opportunity to go and play tennis for Boston University after his freshman year at GCC, however Stanbury stayed despite his peers encouraging him to move on to the four year university. “Everyone was pushing me out the door.” Said Stanbury.

Everyone except his coach, his friend and his mentor.

“He [MacKay] sat me down and said ‘Here, lets the talk the pros the cons and lets make the decision,’ and I made the decision.” Said Stanbury.

“He didn’t try to rein me in because he knew I could help the team next year, he helped me make the best decision for me, even if that wasn’t the best team for his team.”

To MacKay the spirit of coaching tennis is something that carried him through the 90-hour workweeks he endured coaching tennis in Glendale’s regional occupational program, being a manager with parks and recreation with Glendale In 1966, MacKay started driving to the California Institution for Men otherwise known as Chino.

Did he do hard time?

Maybe on the football field.

At the time, MacKay coached and played on a traveling flag football team and was offered an opportunity to take his team and play a friendly game of flag football.

“It was one of those lucky days where someone came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play a football game against the prisoners in Chino.” Said MacKay. “I said ‘yeah that would be great.'”

“We played them and we beat them.”

However there wasn’t much that was friendly about it.

“We got the crap knocked out of us,” said MacKay with a chuckle.

Joe Bristow who organized the game between MacKay’s team and the Chino team invited MacKay back. What started as a game of flag football transformed into a unique opportunity for MacKay to coach the game of tennis.

“My job was to give them a happy day.” Said MacKay “We’d get in around 9 play tennis and leave around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.”

In honor of MacKay’s dedication and service to Chino, the inmates voted him as Man of the Year in 1971.

MacKay’s coaching endeavors followed him overseas too. MacKay was the head coach for the USA junior tennis team in 1988 that came up against the likes of Germany and Belgium.

“It was a good experience for that one year,” said MacKay. “Some of the things that I did over there [Europe] I do here.”

MacKay found some of his fellow coaches perplexed by his coaching tactics. Instead of having his players practicing focus exclusively on their footwork on a clay playing surface, MacKay simply had his players play matches against each other, an approach he has continued to use at GCC

“The coaches over there thought I was crazy because they would do all these drills but I’m out there playing matches.” MacKay said.

“I had kids that couldn’t play on clay, and teaching them how to play on clay was tougher than them playing matches. They learned how to slide from playing matches on clay.” Said MacKay.

“People ask me, ‘God how’d you teach them so quickly?’ and I said ‘I didn’t’ I let them play matches cause I didn’t know how to slide myself, I had them learn through osmosis.”

After 41 years of service to the city of Glendale as manager of parks and recreation, MacKay retired in 2002 and took the helm of GCC’s men’s tennis team in 2003.

He’s led GCC to 47 Western State Conference wins in his 7 years in command, 9 of those 47 wins represent an undefeated season in 2005 resulting in a Western State Conference crown for GCC and Coach of the Year honors for MacKay.

MacKay, however, understands that there is more to life than just tennis and even if you end the day losing a match, it may prove more fruitful for his players.

“I look at the tennis court as my castle, but at the end of the day when I’m done with tennis, it’s all about my family.” Said MacKay the father of three children.

“The way you win as a team is ‘we’. I’d rather be in position where we finish second rather than first, its not always about winning and losing.” Said MacKay

“He is going to win the right way.” Said Stanbury “And if that means he loses because he doesn’t have the talent or the players or make the unethical decisions to win, then he’s fine with that.

“He can sleep a lot better at night knowing he’s doing things the right way.”

Despite his success on the court at Glendale College, MacKay’s goal is for his players to leave school with the education and with the tools necessary to be successful in their lives.

“I want my players to leave Glendale College better than when they came here. I love to win, but if I can develop a complete individual in the process, then I have done my job.”

With that attitude, MacKay can never lose.