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Tennis Freshman Looks Forward to Career in Baseball After College
Women's Tennis  . 

Tennis Freshman Looks Forward to Career in Baseball After College

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

South Carolina tennis freshman Kendall Couch loves to get inside the numbers. As part of the Gamecocks top-ranked recruiting class coming into this season, Couch has a bright future as a student-athlete, but as a big fan of baseball and analytics, and the daughter of South Carolina baseball assistant coach Trip Couch, she is also looking forward to a career around the diamond.

“I like watching it, and I want to work in baseball,” Couch said. “I’ve grown up around it, and I think I have a pretty good understanding of the game. I like the statistics part of it. I want to do baseball analytics. I’ve done a couple of internships with the Mariners, and that was pretty cool. I used to assist in a scouting section at my dad’s games and break down the games.”

Couch spent most of her life growing up in Texas as her father was an assistant coach at the University of Houston before coming to South Carolina three years ago. She starred in tennis at Heathwood Hall in Columbia and was ranked among the top 10 players in the state. While having her father working as a baseball assistant was one reason to stay close to home, she had other reasons as well.

“His being here was most of the reason because we had always joked around about me playing at the school where he coached,” Couch said. “It just happened to work out that way, which is pretty cool. The tennis team here is really good, and also the Honors College here is really good. That added to my decision a little bit as well.”

After being accepted into the Honors College, Couch chose to major in statistics with a minor in sports management. Athletics have been a big part of her family’s life. She started playing tennis at the age of four, and she has loved it since.

“My mom (Tiffany) played college tennis (at Louisiana Lafayette), and my sister (Chandler) actually got me into the sport,” Couch said. “I used to watch her take lessons and thought I would try it. I like the individual part of it and working out problems on your own. I just like competing.”

“I like learning about defensive shifts and how the numbers help teams with different defensive formations.”

Her sister works with the baseball team at Ole Miss, and that’s a direction she would like to go as well.  With baseball season running at the same time as tennis in the spring, it hasn’t been easy for father and daughter to keep up with each other’s team.

“He got to see me warm up for the Clemson match this year, and he saw me in the match this year against Coastal Carolina,” Couch said. “­­­He turned on the live streaming and watched some between innings. That’s about as much as he gets to see. Before I came to South Carolina, I pretty much went to every baseball game. Now, I don’t get to see as much. I saw maybe three of four games this season.
Kendall Couch 2020
“It’s kind of cool because I get to see my dad every day in the Dodie (Anderson Academic Enrichment Center) at lunch. The fans can be tough when you lose, but I try not to pay much attention to that. I learned that at a young age.”

That hasn’t kept her from wanting to dig into baseball statistics.

“Math has been my favorite subject forever, I guess,” Couch said. “I like learning about defensive shifts and how the numbers help teams with different defensive formations. It intrigues me.

“One of my favorites is the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) value. It basically shows you how many games won a particular player brings to their team. It’s a way to compare the best players in the game. You use a bunch of statistics to get the information, and you get a number for how much they’re worth to their team.”

Using analytics is not restricted to baseball, and tennis coach Kevin Epley is big on gathering such information in the training of his student-athletes.

“We do a lot of heart rate stuff,” Couch said. “All of our fitness training has to do with heart rates and base all of our training around that.”

With both of their 2020 seasons being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, father and daughter can empathize with their athletics careers put on hold.

“We’re all pretty bored,” Couch said. “There’s no sports on TV, so we’re sort of twiddling our thumbs, wondering what to do!”

While she and her family understand the seriousness of the situation around the world, Couch is trying to stay active and look forward to what’s next.

“I’ve been training as if the season didn’t end,” Couch said. “We’re just trying to use this as an extended offseason and try to get better for next year. We try not to think about it much.”