First-year Butler women’s tennis coach Tayo Bailey played for the Bulldogs, became an assistant coach, went pro in tennis and then returned as head coach for the Butler women’s tennis team—all in the span of six years.
But it wasn’t so simple. Bailey was raised by her mother in inner-city Chicago, and she didn’t start playing tennis until the age of 11. At this time Bailey’s mother told her she looked like former professional player Chanda Rubin.
“She was like, ‘Tayo, that looks like you. You should play tennis,’” Bailey said. “And I was like, ‘Well, buy me a tennis racket.’”
That Christmas, she got her first tennis racket. The following summer, Bailey was constantly at a local park, hitting tennis balls off walls, and realized she wanted to know more.
Shortly after, she joined the academy with which she’s been involved ever since—Love to Serve Inc. Tennis & Academic Center, a grassroots inner-city tennis academy on Chicago’s south side.
“The founder has been like a surrogate dad to me,” Bailey said. “So every time I go home, I’m at the academy helping out.”
L. LaMont Bryant, president and founder of Love to Serve, said he met Bailey at a park where one of his tournaments was being held. Bailey was racing—and beating—a large group of boys.
“Of course she was winning,” Bryant said with a laugh. “Then, she was challenging our tournament kids. It became annoying.”
Bailey started officially working with Love to Serve the next week.
Bryant would pick her up a few times a week for workouts, helping
Bailey earn a full-ride scholarship to play tennis at Butler.
While playing for the bulldogs, she received the team MVP award three of her four years at Butler. She graduated in 2006 and became an assistant coach under former tennis coach Jason Suscha.
After graduating, Bailey proceeded to leave the Midwest for southern Florida to pursue a professional tennis career. She competed in the Women’s Tennis Association and also returned to coaching.
Once she knew she was done with the pursuit of a professional career, Bailey wanted to return to college athletics.
With a stroke of luck, the head coaching position at Butler opened up.
“Jason and I were still really close, and over the years, we’ve always been in contact,” Bailey said. “He let me know that the position was open, knowing it was something I’d possibly be interested in, so I applied for it.”
Bailey is now in her first year of coaching at Butler.
“She’s really motivated to get the whole team better,” sophomore Angelina Qin said. “She develops us as players. She’s really into making sure we’re getting stronger and faster.”
Bailey said she had some great role models at Butler and wants to be the same thing for the girls she coaches. She said her youth and experience allow her to both train and relate to her team better.
“That’s why I really wanted to get back into college athletics and coaching,” Bailey said. “I felt it was such a positive experience here at Butler, and I kind of wanted to do that for other kids.
“I think my favorite thing is to be back at the place I really enjoy and to be a part of a school that has meant so much to me.”