Schneider ready for Breakers success

Kerry Schneider has been working hard the last five months as the new general manager of World Team Tennis' Orange County Breakers.

Schneider, 34, has been working for World Team Tennis for more than eight years, and she still is the director of marketing and sponsorship services for the pro league. But for those last five months she has also embraced her new challenge.

The O.C. Breakers, formerly the Newport Beach Breakers, debut at 7 p.m. Monday night against defending WTT champion Washington. Celebrating their 10th season, the Breakers also have a new venue as they're playing this year at the Bren Events Center on the UC Irvine campus.

Tickets start at $15. The Breakers, who will have marquee player Lindsay Davenport in every home match and are again coached by Trevor Kronemann, have seven home matches through July 28. The rest of the all-new roster includes Travis Parrott, John-Patrick Smith, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and substitute Jana Juricova.

Schneider, who moved to the West Coast from Maryland to take on GM responsibilities, now lives in Irvine. She took time Friday to answer a few questions prior to the start of the season.

Question: How did you become general manager of the Breakers? What was the process like?

Answer: World Team Tennis owns this team, and has always owned this team. The Hoag Hospital Foundation had been managing it for the last five years. This year, by mutual parting of ways, World Team Tennis took back over management of the team. We did have someone local who had been put in place to run the team, but we just, for lots of different reasons, decided that maybe wasn't the best thing in the middle of January.

I was going to be helping in a consulting role, and coming out here about a week a month leading into the season. Because I had already started in that process, and because I had always expressed to [WTT co-founder] Billie Jean [King] and [WTT CEO and Commissioner] Ilana [Kloss] that I would love to have the opportunity to try to work at a team level, they gave me this opportunity to come out and do it on a full-time basis.

Everything happened really fast. We made the decision Martin Luther King weekend ... and then I moved out here about two weeks later. So, the end of January. I had been working from a remote World Team Tennis office in Delaware for the last four years. Prior to that, I had been based and living in New York.

Q: What was that transition like for you?

A: I keep using the world "interesting," that's what I keep saying to everyone. Everything happened so fast ... it has been quite a transition. Obviously, for me, arriving out here in February and it was already in the 60s, basically I missed the whole winter. So that was wonderful. It was a nice welcome to California, like, 'You don't have to wear a winter hat again for the rest of the year.' It's been the same exact weather since I got here. That's been an interesting thing for me ... It was a transition was a little bit hard, in all honestly, just because I left all my family and friends and came out here to an area that I'm familiar with but was not really embedded in. With that being said, people have been really responsive and really helpful. I was lucky enough to have one really good friend here when I moved here, and that was a good way to start. Between him and all the people I've met through my work relations, I really feel like I'm more of a, not a California girl — I don't think I would go that far — but I'll be jumping on the highway here and there.

When I first moved here, I had to start everything from Jamboree. That's the only road I knew, and I was afraid to drive on the 405 ... A lot of my time out here really has been spent working on the team, but I have had some opportunities to really enjoy California.

Q: What would you say has been your been your biggest challenge in the last few months in your new role?

A: Probably my biggest challenge, I wouldn't say it's been an overwhelming challenge, is just making sure people learn who I am. I want this team to succeed, and we're here to do whatever we can to keep those relationships strong. That's the only challenge, that I'm not a local girl. Luckily, I've had some guidance from some of the group from last year and from some other people ... as I look back, we've kind of checked it off the list. We've established some really great relationships with some really great partners this year, both returning partners and new partners. We've worked really hard to have a presence in the community and express to people that this team is about everybody as a whole.

Q: As a female general manager of a professional sports franchise, do you take pride in that?

A: I do. We've obviously had some Team Tennis teams that have had female GMs, and I've always been like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool.' I wasn't overly like,' Oh my God, I'm the general manager,' but I know that's the case ... I take pride in the fact that Billie Jean and Ilana had faith in me and felt that I could do this job. I take big pride in that, for sure.

I don't think it's because I'm a female over a male, but I take big pride in that. But yeah, this is an anniversary year of Title IX. So to say that in the 40th anniversary of Title IX, that this girl who is a direct benefit of Title IX and of what Billie Jean has done is sitting here talking to you as a general manager of a professional sports team, I think it's pretty cool. It's a pretty cool year for that to be happening.

Q: The Breakers have a new name and a new venue this year. Tell me about some of the reasoning behind those changes.

A: Billie Jean has always wanted a team in Southern California and she's always wanted a team in Orange County, not just L.A. County. She wanted that because she wanted this community, as a whole, to have something like this in their backyard. The change of the name is obviously because of geography [no longer being located in Newport Beach], but also because we want it to be about the county as a whole. This is the county's team. It's not just Newport's, not just Irvine's, not just Huntington Beach's. We wanted something for Orange County.

With the Bren Center, it's also a multi-faceted reason why we changed. Obviously, with the new management, we needed to figure out did it make sense for us to go back to Palisades, where we had the team before when it was also under our management? Did it make sense to try to continue the relationship there at The Tennis Club, or maybe was this the time to try something different? ... It's a chance to bring [the team] a little bit more into the center of the community. And while it's not that far mileage-wise from where we were, it really does bring us into Irvine, which technically is the center of Orange County, so I've been told. It's more accessible ... if we're going to make some changes, we might as well make some changes. We talked to the Bren Center and they were like, 'We'd love to have you guys in the summer.' It's a quieter time for the university as a whole, but it's also a quieter time for the Bren Center. They jumped on the chance and embraced us ... and it comes with an infrastructure that's in place. The seats are there, the lights are there ... and you kind of take that weather element out of it.

Q: How cool is it to have Lindsay Davenport, a former world No. 1 and a Laguna Beach resident, for every home match?

A: It's so cool! I've been a tennis fan for a long time and have watched Lindsay ever since she started. It's cool on a lot of levels. We're friends on Facebook, and every once in a while she'll post something. I had friends that I used to play tennis with in Delaware that were like, 'Is Lindsay Davenport really commenting on posts that you're making on Facebook?' It's cool on a personal level, but it's cool for us as an organization to have our marquee player playing every single night in her community. I mean, you can't get more being a part of the community than that.

On top of that, there's the leadership she's going to bring to the team. This is her 10th season [of World Team Tennis] and she's going to be able to help guide. Travis, this is his sixth season, but John-Patrick is a rookie this year and Anna-Lena has played one other season for the Houston Wranglers. The fact that we have such leadership in Lindsay, I think it's going to be great. Not many teams can say that they have their marquee playing all home matches, plus three on the road. And she's just great. She wants it to be successful too, because it's in her backyard. And I mean, every time we meet each other we go and meet at a Starbucks. There's no pretense about her, which is what I love.

Q: How big of a tennis fan are you?

A: Oh, I'm a huge tennis fan. I was supposed to get up at 5 [Friday] morning to watch [the Wimbledon men's semifinal, Roger Federer against Novak Djokovic]. I did hit snooze a handful of times, I'm not going to lie, but I'm a huge tennis fan. I'm that person who stays up until 2 a.m. to watch [the Australian Open], at least when I was on the East Coast. What's been tough for me, for the French and for Wimbledon, is that instead of 9 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon, it's the 5 a.m., 6 a.m. Breakfast at Wimbledon [on the West Coast]. But I'm a huge tennis fan. I've played tennis since I was 14 ... and I've always been a fan of Billie Jean's.

I love this product, I have for eight years. I'm not just blowing a bunch of hot air. I love Team Tennis. The season is short, but it can be very long and very trying. This is my first year in eight years that I'm actually staying put in one location. I'm normally 21 days out of my house, 13 or 14 different one-way flights. You get to the end of the season and you're tired. But then I get to a match and there's some little kid who's on court for a promotion. He thinks it's the coolest thing he's ever done ... I just love this product.

I want the community to embrace us as much as I embrace this product, because it is great competition, that's the core of what we really are. But we also are a great experience for people who may not otherwise know or like tennis. This is a great way for us to grow tennis and fans, and hopefully to grow tennis as players.

Twitter: @mjszabo

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World