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Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray: Josh Goffi's big-picture plan in South Carolina
The head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks men's tennis team explains how he learned at the feet of a coaching titan, and eventually became one himself.
Published Feb 05, 2023
WATCH: The inspiring story of Great Britain's Paul Jubb, whom Goffi coached to an NCAA national championship at South Carolina.
It's only natural to follow in the footsteps of one's father. For Josh Goffi, those were big shoes to fill.
Carlos Goffi was one of the premier teachers of the sport, having immigrated from Brazil to become the leading voice for several of the top juniors in America, including the effervescent John McEnroe. His son witnessed it all firsthand, and while he was never urged into his the family business, he fell in love with it just the same. Goffi competed all the way to the pro level, and was ready to transition to coaching in his mid-20s. The college game is where he's found his true life's calling.
As he explains with fellow coach Kamau Murray on this week's episode of the Tennis.com Podcast, sometimes you find greatness and opportunity where you least expect it.
It's important to note just how strong the tennis roots in Goffi were. McEnroe wasn't a superstar or mythical sports hero to the child of his coach; he was simply Uncle John. He didn't even grasp his fame until one supermarket visit with his mom.
"I remember walking to checkout and there was this huge six-foot cutout of Johnny Mac holding the Bic Razor. And I remember looking at my mom and going, 'Hey, there's Mac! That's weird,'" Goffi recalls. "And then we walked to the car and she's like, 'So, John's No. 1 in the world in tennis.'"
Despite tennis being so present in his life, Goffi was never pushed into it early. Soccer was his main sport before tennis became his chief interest, and he credits his father for deflating the pressure that was put onto the son of a high-profile coach. Rather than burn out like so many individuals do, the Goffi family took the long approach, one that has kept their son invigorated in the game.
Since 2011, Goffi has been the head coach for the South Carolina men's tennis program. In that time, he's transformed the Gamecocks into a program that chases and expects excellence, with five Top 25-rankings in the last six seasons.
"When it comes to recruiting, you have to find your niche. You have to develop your brand," Goffi said. "I want to be known as a developer. If you want to bust it every day, and you want me to hold you accountable to the standards of what it's going to take to become a tour player, then this is your school."
The coach knows it scares some recruits away, and he is totally fine with it—a willing price to pay to find the players that can create and foster the culture he has established. Francisco Cerundolo, for example, was an unknown tennis commodity before his brief time at South Carolina, and now, he's a mainstay in the ATP top 40.
Goffi has built a career out of getting the most out of his players, and the proof is in the results.
South Carolina men's tennis has one individual national champion in school history, a player Goffi stumbled upon by equal parts chance and fate. Paul Jubb was a British junior with very little fanfare, but had a special quality that emerged in one of their first meetings.
"He said, 'If I had the same as everybody else, I'd be the best I can guarantee that,' Goffi recalled. "I've heard that plenty of times, but I didn't hear it with that sort of intensity."
The coach identified the intangibles he always looks for, and knew he could push Jubb through good times and bad to work harder in the pursuit of tennis goals. Jubb's national championship triumph in 2019 might have been a shock to many, but not the coach that was with him every step of the way.
"I'm here to tell you when you're great, when it's good, but I'm also telling you what you need to improve on," Goffi said. "Because that's what we want to do, we want to get better. We want to grow constantly."
Similarly to a successful player, it takes certain qualities to really succeed in big-time coaching. Goffi's leadership qualities ooze out in every answer, explanation, and statement he makes on this podcast.
Whether he's reminiscing about his childhood, laying out his coaching philosophies, or recalling his professional victory over Stan Wawrinka—"It had to be one of his worst days," he says—the infectious personality that has uplifted the South Carolina men's team is on full display.
Check out this week's episode of the Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray to learn about the power of player development, and why a clear vision can help you go miles beyond your wildest expectations.