By James Keary
Jordan Snider (far left) has been the mens tennis coach at Purchase for five years. He is pictured above with the men's tennis team, and assistant coach Gregory Leonarczyk (far right) (Photo via the SUNY Purchase website)
“What people might not understand if they don’t know me—is that I’m a competitor. At every level, I want to win.”
Jordan Snider, SUNY Purchase’s fifth year tennis coach, proves to be an astute analyst of his own demeanor. Leaning back 45 degrees in his easy chair, donning an oversized hoodie, with a shock of silvering hair. He just may be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to his competitive spirit.
There’s no doubt that Coach Snider is a smooth operator. The interview takes place in his office, which is adorned with soft blue carpet, and a window that overlooks the swimming pool—it’s hardly the exaggerated broom closets on the second floor of the athletics building, to which many of the Purchase coaches are relegated.
The coach was already waiting, a smiling head positioned behind the sort of large wooden desk that would feel more at home in the office of a banker or lawyer. He’s all business, mixed with a nice guy attitude that lends to his respectability.
When asked about the origins of the Future Stars program, Snider gives the impression of a man breaking character. His mouth curls into a prideful smile, and he speaks with fervor about the youth sports camp that has been a fixture at SUNY Purchase for 35 years, and which Snider now directs.
Future Stars is also the camp that Snider attended in his own childhood. It was a place where a tennis obsessed kid from New Rochelle was able to spend two months a year on the court. The coach speaks about the camp, referring to it as his “full time job.” Coaching sports is more than a passion for Snider, it’s his life’s work, he says. Although he has
Snider is also the director of summer youth camp, Future
Stars, which he attended as a child, and hols programs on
the SUNY Purchase campus (Image via the Future Stars website)
made a successful career for himself as both a youth sports director with Future Stars, and a collegiate tennis coach at Purchase, he mentions a scenario in which his services can be procured pro bono. “In addition to the camp, I volunteer to coach all my kids youth teams.”
When he speaks about developing his tennis players at the college level, a flare of passion distorts his otherwise stoic features. He speaks gently about his players, and he didn’t get into the minutiae of their specific abilities on the court. Rather, he shares stories of character, and the manner in which these young people mature, and improve, over their time with him. Snider states that he cares a great deal about winning, but much more about improvement.
“I keep low key. I don’t have big highs and lows, and I don’t have a bad temper,” he says. On the matter of his coaching style Snider seems to stress the importance of composure in competition. “These are all good players. I believe what’s important is that they’re always thinking about developing, how they can get better, and what’s the next step,” Snider says.
His self assessment is supported by his collegiate players.“He’s a chill guy,” says Yuta Kawamura, a freshman tennis player at SUNY Purchase who is from Greenwich, Connecticut. Thus far Kawamura is learning about Snider’s style, which seems reserved, but thoughtful. The sort of coach who isn’t jumping to conclusions. “Sometimes he doesn’t speak for like 30 minutes. He just watches everything, and then he’ll come talk to you after a while,” Kawamura adds.
Besides an understanding that coaching tennis shouldn’t be a reactionary practice, Snider also knows that Purchase presents student athletes with a unique opportunity that he believes acts as a strength in regard to putting together a strong program, with students who feel comfortable in the campus environment here.
“The players that I have really embrace the Purchase culture and atmosphere. They
embrace the openness. It’s part of the college experience in my opinion,” Snider says. The coach is privy to the fact that Purchase isn’t your prototypical sports school, and he believes a balance between sports culture and campus culture can be achieved. “It’s a challenge with players who are theater or music majors. They have performances and rehearsals that there’s no makeup for. It’s a big challenge, but it’s part of life.”
Besides just balancing the art-centric lifestyle here in the Purchase campus, the coach says that he enjoys the opportunity to work with students who may be harboring talents off the tennis court. A particularly memorable incident involving an international student came to mind.
Snider was a Division II tennis played, and received his BA from
Rollins College, and his MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.
He lives in Braircliff with his wife and two children (Image via t
he SUNY Purchase website)
“I had a player a few years ago from South Korea. Kind of a quiet kid. He was a decent, solid, tennis player. He was sort of my first guy off the bench. A very quiet, hard worker. But his senior year I went to his saxophone performance, and there was a completely different person on stage,” Snider recalls. “He embraced it all, he owned the stage. I almost didn’t recognize him. It was incredible to see not only how talented he was, but that he was in his comfort zone. Of course, I now realize that tennis was fun and new and exciting to him, but he was here because he was an incredible musician.”
Snider recognizes that winning tennis matches is not the only thing that his athletes are gaining from there experience as collegiate athletes. He speaks about his own college experience as a tennis player at Division II Rollins College, and stresses the importance of camaraderie, and building relationships through sports.
“Most college players aren’t going on to the pros. It’s sort of what you get out of it. I always look back, and my best friends, who I keep in touch with the most, are my college teammates,” he says. “And what I remember, and what we still talk about today, are not the tennis matches. It’s the bus rides, and hotel stays, all that time you spend together. So there is that time they players spend with their teammates, it becomes a big part of their college experience “
When Snider begins to discuss his competitive nature, he speaks directly and convincingly about his desire to win. But before he could fully elaborate on his fierce spirit, his tone softens once again and he begins to speak about some of the transformations that he’s witnessed in his players from both an athletic, and personal standpoint.
“I want to win. But it’s not so much about the actual win as it is the progress. Seeing kids come in as freshman and leave as different people when their seniors, I want to help be part of that. The maturity and perspective they gain is truly remarkable,” Snider says.
“[Snider has] been here as long as I have, professionally, and even longer as a camper,” says Chris Bisignano, Purchase’s Athletic Director. “His roots to our campus go way back. I would consider him to be as much a part of the Purchase fabric as anybody here.”
Bisignano also took the opportunity to discuss Snider’s role as the director of the Future Stars program, and the trouble he went through to keep the camp running when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.
“He ran the camp during the height of Covid. He worked really hard to stay open. He scaled back, and took safety precautions, so that those kids could have camp that year,” Bisignano states. “I think there’s maybe a handful of people who would’ve been able to do what Jordan did. We’re really lucky to have him.”
Snider also touched on mental health, and the services that the Purchase community offers. The college years are an important transitional period in many young peoples lives, he says. Coupled with the ongoing broader discussion of mental health that currently dominates the zeitgeist, Snider takes a moment to discuss the common difficulties that some students face, and what he would like for them to understand about their management options.
“There’s a lot of support for everyone at Purchase. And everyone that works here truly cares about the students, and would do anything to help them,” he says. “I tell my players, there are a lot of people here for you, but you need to reach out. Part of my role is to help them not just grow up, but understand perspective.”
Snider knows what makes a leader out of a student athlete. And it’s not always behavior. Rather, he believes that exemplary play on the court can make a team leader, and he spoke about the times when that idea may not be clicking with a student athlete, and the way in which he chooses to handle such situations.
“One of the top players we’ve had, came in as a freshman. He was clearly a super strong tennis player. But he was young and he..lived his own way,” Snider says. “I sat him down one day and said whether you like it or not, you’re a leader on this team because of your tennis. On the court he was there, but off the court he thought he ruled the world.”
“I’m still in contact with him, and he’s told me that it was an important lesson, and one that he didn’t realize he needed to lear. I told him, the way people view you, and your actions, they matter,” Snider says.