Q&A: Philadelphia Freedoms’ Josh Cohen
The head coach of the Villanova-based World Team Tennis team looks ahead to the August season.
Josh Cohen with Philadelphia Freedoms owner Billie Jean King
Every summer, top-tier pros come to play for the Philadelphia Freedoms as part of World TeamTennis, founded by Billie Jean King. At the helm is head coach Josh Cohen, an Episcopal Academy graduate who had a successful career as a junior player, competing in all four Grand Slam tournaments. This season marks his fifth year with the Freedoms, who play at Villanova University for the first two weeks in August. Cohen is also the head pro at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill.
MLT: How has it been coaching your hometown team?
JC: It’s an unbelievable feeling. You have a sense of responsibility. It’s probably the best two or three weeks of the year for me. I try to make the most of it.
MLT: How did you get started in tennis?
JC: I was 2 or 3 years old, and my mom or dad would hit with my sister [Julia Cohen] and me at the park. At age 4, we started lessons. My parents never really pushed us. We both fell in love with it and were pretty good from a young age. My sister played on the tour for four or five years. She played in all the Grand Slams, and she was an all-American.
MLT: How do you bring the Philadelphia Freedoms together each year?
JC: It’s a quick season, so you do the best you can. We spend a lot of time together, so it’s almost like a family. When you’re with a team and you’re around them 24/7, it gels naturally. By the end of the season, everybody’s having a really good time.
MLT: How does the team aspect figure into it?
JC: [Players] feel a sense of obligation. If they’re not feeling well one day, they’ll push a little harder because they’re playing for a team.
MLT: What’s it like interacting with marquee players like Caroline Wozniacki and Andy Roddick?
JC: I know Andy fairly well from junior tennis. He’s a great person, and he had an unbelievable career. Caroline is a formidable former world No. 1. At the end of the day, they’re just regular people—and I think that’s the way they want to be treated.
MLT: What’s it like working within the WTT format?
JC: This year, we have pretty much an all-new team, and all four of them are World Team Tennis rookies. I ask the players to get there a couple days early so we have practice sessions to go over the rules. It’s different than the ATP or WTA—you play let scoring, you play to five, and everything counts. The first couple matches might be a little challenging for them, but we make the best of it.
MLT: How do you bring your experience with the Freedoms to Green Valley Country Club?
JC: The level of play is much different between juniors and amateurs and the Freedoms, but tennis is one of those unique things where it’s played the same. Everyone wants to have a good time, compete hard and enjoy the game. You can play tennis until you’re 90 years old. With a lot of sports, you can’t do that.