Kelly Langdon’s journey to becoming one of the most decorated tennis coaches in the state of Texas began as a bit of a fluke, and he said he did not initially seek out the Marcus High School coaching job in Flower Mound.
“I was coaching one of the Marcus players privately and was asked if I had any interest in coaching the team by her mother, who happened to be the booster club president,” Langdon said. “I did think it would be fun, and I had coached at a private school earlier in my career, but really didn’t put much thought into it.
“The summer of 2001, out of the blue, I get a call from the athletic coordinator at Marcus asking if I’d be interested in coaching the team. I interviewed two days later and was offered the job. I really thought I’d only do it for a couple years.”
Twenty-one years later, the five-time United States Professional Tennis Association Coach of the Year for Texas is still at it and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Langdon will receive the prestigious Lloyd Sessions Educational Merit Award later this month in Fort Worth.
The award is given to a person that has made significant contributions to the sport of tennis and also exhibits outstanding abilities at a professional level in building stronger tennis at all skill levels.
“I’ve just always enjoyed trying to help players reach their goals in tennis, whether it be beginners or ranked players, adults or juniors,” Langdon said. “I was fortunate enough to get an assistant pro job at the age of 19, working with some really good tennis professionals that I learned so much from, both technically and tactically. By the time I was 21, I was working with several top-ranked juniors in Texas, along with some nationally-ranked players in the U.S. and Mexico.”
One former player, Preethi Kasilingam, a four-time first-team all-district selection in high school who also finished third in the state in the mixed-doubles competition in 2014, said that Langdon’s impact on her life is immeasurable.
“Coach really helped me with my analytical skills on the court,” Kasilingam said. “I would say he’s a great strategist, and that’s something I took with me to college tennis. As a person, Coach has been like another dad for me. He has always looked out for me and checked in on me over the years.
“He’s generous and genuine about giving back to the community. He helped a lot with my confidence as a player and always told me that I could compete with anyone on the court. It was actually something I came to miss in college.”
Langdon, 54, who is an 8-time District Coach of the Year, grew up enjoying the intensity and determination of such players as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
Stylistically, the Grapevine native always enjoyed watching Andre Agassi.
This was also the time of the likes of Tony Dorsett, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, however, and Langdon said he loved football and basketball as well.
But when the time came to choose, there was always something special about tennis for him.
“Tennis appeals to me because there is nobody else to blame or get the credit for a match,” Langdon said. “It’s you by yourself battling with another person. There isn’t a time limit like many sports, so there is always a chance for a comeback. Also, tennis is such a wonderful combination of intelligence, athleticism, and determination.”
The former Wilson/Texas Tennis Coaches Association Coach of the Year said that despite the success he has enjoyed throughout his career and the passion he has for the sport, it is not without its challenges.
“As the game changes, whether it’s because of racket technology, playing styles, improvement in fitness or stroke technique, making sure that you are keeping up and teaching your students the most current and productive lessons can be hard,” Langdon said. “Also, just simply the long and many times odd hours of being a pro/coach is demanding.
“Finding time for yourself and family can be tough. Fortunately, many of those long days and weekends were spent with my son Sebastian. Nothing better than having your son with you at work.”
Sebastian Langdon, who graduated from Marcus High School in 2015 and was the other half of the mixed-doubles team that finished third at state in 2014, went on to compete at Abilene Christian University.
“My dad coached me all my life from the age of three and even still today, whenever I play the occasional tournament,” Sebastian said.
“Just a couple of weekends ago, I got a lesson from him because I needed help fixing my serve. I feel very lucky to have had my dad as my coach during my middle school and high school career, not only because he was my dad, but because he’s one of the best coaches anywhere and it was a special time.”
Langdon, who was also a recipient of the Wilson/TTCA Jim Longbotham Award for Leadership said that the hardest part about coaching high school tennis may seem a bit odd.
“With tennis being an individual sport, creating a sense of team is always a challenge,” Langdon said. “Players play tournaments on the weekends and their results only affect them. But in high school tennis, every individual match counts toward a team victory. To get players to buy in that others are depending on them to always give their greatest effort is an ongoing, year- to-year process.”
A man who got to witness that process first-hand on many occasions was former Grapevine High School and current Texas Wesleyan University tennis coach Angel Martinez.
A former non-conference rival, Martinez said Langdon deserves a lot of credit for making the Marauders tennis program into a perennial state powerhouse.
“When he got to Marcus, he not only established stability, but he built it into a state-ranked program,” Martinez said. “They grew into one of the best programs in the state.”
Langdon, who said he will continue coaching as long as he is “physically able,” said the Lloyd Sessions Educational Merit Award means a lot to him.
“Not going to lie, I was very excited when I was notified about being selected for the award,” Langdon said. “It was established in 1973 and is one of the most prestigious awards around. When I look at the names on the list of recipients, those are all coaches and professionals that I respect and looked up to as a junior and as I began my career.
“Also, as with any other individual award, it gives an opportunity to thank all the many entities it takes to make the award possible—the Lewisville ISD and its leadership, Marcus High School and its leadership, parents, municipalities, the TNT crew, my family, the Lord, and of course all the countless players over 35 years.”