Tomas Patino

Tomas Patino: Turning his passion into a career in coaching

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, 2015 | School of Computing and Engineering
Title: Assistant coach for the UMKC tennis team and student in the master of arts in higher education administration program, with an emphasis in sports administration and exercise science
Hometown: Medellín, Colombia

UMKC Alumnus Tomas Patino holding tennis racket

How did you choose UMKC?

I grew up in Colombia and was looking for a tennis scholarship. I started playing tennis at age five, and it’s been my passion my whole life. At first, I went to a different college for one semester. I was looking to transfer and got in contact with the head coach here, and he was able to offer me a scholarship. I looked at the School of Computing and Engineering and felt good about it, so I decided to transfer to UMKC.

How did you choose your field of study?

I chose engineering because my father and brother are engineers. I’m good at math, so I thought it would be a good fit. But as time went by, I started to ask myself a lot of questions about what I wanted out of life. I decided I didn’t feel passion for engineering.

I started looking for things while I finished my engineering degree — I didn’t want to just drop it being so close to finishing. I started coaching as a graduate assistant at UMKC and fell in love with coaching. I’m super passionate about it, and that is why I decided to do my master’s in sports administration.

My tennis teammates are some of the closest people in my life. Five have come home to Colombia with me. The quality of those friendships is more valuable than any award.

How did your family respond to your decision to pursue coaching?

Back home, tennis coaches are very poor; most probably didn’t finish high school. So there could have been some resistance, but they said, “Look, the important thing is you already have your degree and no one can take that from you. If there’s a time to pursue your passion, it’s right now.”

What are the challenges of your field?

There are few job openings for the really good positions, like head or assistant coach at a top Division I school. It is very competitive, since there are a lot of people going after those top positions. Many ex-professional players are starting to get into college coaching, and the fact that they played at such a high level makes them very attractive for top programs.

Challenges also come from dealing with a team of players, usually from very different cultures, nationalities, languages and ways of doing things. Teaching them to work together isn’t always easy. Also having to deal with the unexpected on a regular basis. You have to be really good at problem-solving on the spot.

What are the benefits?

I get to be around people who love tennis. I get to travel and spend time out on the court, instead of sitting in an office in front of a computer all day. It forces me to stay active and have a healthy lifestyle. I get to work with tennis, which has been my favorite game since I was a little kid and has always been one of my big passions. I get to interact with a very unique group of people, tennis players from all over the world. I love learning about their culture. I learn a lot from them.

UMKC Alumnus Tomas Patino holding tennis racket

How did UMKC help you reach your current position?

UMKC and some of the people in it, specifically my academic advisor and my coach, had a big impact on me being where I am today. I got an athletic scholarship to come play tennis at UMKC, and I got my undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Then they offered me the opportunity to do a master’s degree, also on scholarship. People have been opening doors for me and pushing me to pursue my passion and really encouraging me to not just go and do what everybody else does.

What did you learn about yourself at UMKC?

I’ve learned a lot since I first came to UMKC as a freshman. I learned to be more accepting of others and less judgmental. I learned to let go of my rigid ideas about how things are supposed to be and what my life is supposed to look like. I learned to be more grateful for all the blessings I have in my life, like my family back home, my friends and some simple pleasures that I used to take for granted. I learned to be more independent, and also how to work really hard, but not be consumed by having to be perfect.

Portrait of UMKC Alumnus Tomas Patino

Who was the most influential faculty or staff member at UMKC, and why?

My coach, Kendell Hale, has been a great mentor and has not only helped me with my tennis as a player, but in my development as a coach. He has really pushed me to grow by giving me responsibility and letting me try new things to get my own experience, rather than just doing what he tells me.

My academic advisor was Dr. Jerry Richardson, an associate professor in the School of Computing and Engineering. He is one of my favorite professors. He has always been very nice and helpful. When I was going through that moment of “crisis” in my senior year, when I didn’t know what to do, he was extremely supportive and encouraged me to not settle for something that I felt no passion for. He kind of took the fear out of the situation by pointing out what an amazing opportunity I had to pursue something different.

What advice would you give to a new student at UMKC?

Get involved. Enjoy your experience as much as you can because it goes by really fast. Find your passion and surround yourself with people who are passionate about what they do.

If you’re struggling with classes, ask for help. Go to your professors’ offices or work with your classmates. They’ll go out of their way to help you, if you show that you’re trying.

What was your favorite thing about UMKC?

The friendships I have made are the most valuable thing by far. My tennis teammates are some of the closest people in my life. Five have come home to Colombia with me. The quality of those friendships is more valuable than any award.

UMKC Alumnus Tomas Patino holding tennis racket

What is one word that best describes you and why?

Passion. I’ve come to really understand the importance of being passionate about what I do. My best work always comes when I do things with passion. It is what sets me apart from others. If I can keep that passion alive and learn to harvest it and point it in the right direction, I think I can be the best at what I want because I’ll be able to work harder than most people. Because what I realized is that “work” doesn’t feel like work to me when I do things with passion.

What makes you unique?

My ability to look at a situation from many different perspectives. I’m introspective and open-minded.

Do you have a motto you live by?

If the people I coach learn tools to give them an edge — if they can say they learned to look at things from another perspective, learned to handle stress better, or they’ve become all-around better people — then I don’t really care what kind of player they are on the tennis court. My goal is to always be true to myself and have a positive impact on the people around me.

What’s your favorite place in Kansas City?

Loose Park. I’ve never really seen any one not having a good day at Loose Park. I love to go play tennis over there. The fountain area and the gardens are beautiful. I love the trees, I love the pond. We don’t really have anything like that in Colombia. I had access to places like that because I was a member of a country club, but it was only accessible to certain people. Here, it’s open to everyone. I think that’s beautiful.