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ND Women’s Tennis: Louderback stresses importance of teamwork

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, March 5, 2012

The last time the head coaching position for the women’s tennis team was open, current Irish coach Jay Louderback was reluctant to even apply.

At the time, Louderback was coaching both the men’s and women’s teams at Iowa State.

“I really wasn’t looking to leave Iowa State,” Louderback said. “I was trying to decide if I wanted to coach men’s or women’s, and I really wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go yet.

“But the job opened up and [current Irish men’s tennis coach Bob] Bayliss called me and kept saying, ‘just apply, get an interview,’ and the Colorado coach, who was a good friend of both of ours, kept saying I needed to go and look at this. So I came here and interviewed and as soon as I came here, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m an idiot, I should have been wanting this all along.'”

That was in 1989. Since then, Louderback has coached 23 Irish squads, 20 conference championship-winning teams, 12 All-Americans and two family members — his daughter, Bailey, a 2008 graduate, and niece, All-American Kali Krisik, who graduated in 2010.

Coaching family can be tricky, but Louderback was prepared for the potentially thorny situation.

“When I was coach at Wichita State the first recruit I signed was my sister,” Louderback said, referring to Krisik’s mother, Jan. “I was pretty hard on her, being my sister. She was a hard worker, not the greatest athlete ever, but she competed well. And I think that really helped me when then I started coaching my daughter. She didn’t play much for us, but she was just great to have around, because even though she wasn’t as good as the other kids she worked hard and did a lot of things just helping the team.

“Then my niece played for me. Kali was unbelievable for us. She came in ranked pretty low in the juniors but was a great doubles player and just came in and beat a lot of kids who were ranked ahead of her. She got a lot better and did a great job.”

Louderback said one of the best parts of coaching at Notre Dame is the reunion atmosphere of home football weekends, when he gets to catch up with many of his former athletes.

“One thing I really enjoy is the fall, because we have so many kids that come back to football games,” Louderback said. “You know they really enjoy getting to come in and getting to spend some time here. They’re having families now and they’re bringing their families back, and that’s something that I really enjoy.”

Although football weekends can feel like team reunions for former teammates, Louderback said one of the most difficult parts of being a collegiate tennis coach is getting freshmen to buy into the team atmosphere.

“You never know how freshmen are going to handle it, because they’ve always playing for themselves and maybe for a coach or parents. Now all the sudden, they’re being counted on to win matches not only for themselves but also for their teammates, their school [and] fans,” Louderback said. “Some of them thrive in it, some of them struggle in it. You just never know when you recruit kids.

“But I try to let them know immediately that the bottom line is winning team matches and if they lose fighting out there and our team wins they should be happy.”

Although Louderback has now coached for 32 years, he said that his favorite part of collegiate tennis hasn’t changed since he was a student-athlete himself at Wichita State.

“I really enjoy when we get the chance to compete, get a chance to go on the court and play other teams,” Louderback said. “I enjoy practice — it’s great — but I just really enjoy playing matches, and when I was in college that’s how I was as a player, too.”

Louderback will oversee the Irish as they travel to Hawaii over spring break. They will kick off their island series with a match against Texas Tech in Honolulu on March 12 at 5 p.m.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu