Tammy Cecchini knows what it is like to take on a new leadership position.
In the mid 1990s, two years after receiving Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors, Cecchini was named the captain of the Penn State women’s tennis team. Now, she has received her first head coaching job.
In the wake of Traci Young’s promotion, Cecchini has taken over as the head coach of the Valparaiso women’s tennis team.
Young has accepted a position as the Valpo associate director of athletics for student services.
“When this opened up, it was just kind of an exciting new chapter that I thought I’d give it a try,” Young said. “I was sad of course to leave my team because they’re wonderful people. But I can support them in a new way.”
As Young moves on to a different role within the Valparaiso athletic department, Cecchini, who has been on the coaching staff as an assistant since August 2014, will fill the head coaching vacancy.
“[The program] is in really good hands,” Young said. “I’m excited. It was like the first time where I had a coach that was the perfect fit to take over. So it seemed like a really good transition. It was a win for me and a win for her; I know she’ll do an awesome job.”
Cecchini, whose husband Dave is the Valparaiso football coach, began her coaching career in an unlikely, unexpected way. While Dave was working as an assistant at Lehigh University, Tammy was playing the role of mom to their two sons.
“When we were at Lehigh, we had indoor courts,” Cecchini said. “So I would take my kids there and we would play every single day. The head coach at Lehigh called me into his office one day. I had never spoken to him in my life.”
Coach Dave Shook sat Cecchini down, and what he said next blew Cecchini’s mind.
“He was going to retire, and he wanted me to be the [next] head coach,” Cecchini said. “I had never done any college coaching before that.”
After some initial reluctance, Cecchini happily accepted the offer, and served as an assistant coach and coach Shook’s apprentice for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The following summer Shook retired, however Cecchini’s husband had already agreed to become the head coach of the Valparaiso football team, and the coaching couple started a new journey.
“It just so happened that Traci was looking for an assistant,” Cecchini said. “And everything just seemed to fall into place.”
Now, Cecchini has the head coaching gig, and takes over a program that has had its fair share of struggles. Since the program was founded in 2007, the Crusaders have yet to win a Horizon League championship. At the same time, Cecchini believes that the team is headed in the right direction.
“Traci has done great things for this program,” Cecchini said. “When she took it over a little bit over six and a half years ago, they didn’t even have a whole team. Where she came from to now has been amazing.”
While the women’s tennis team has come a long way, Cecchini looks to advance the program even further.
“In a few years, it would be great to compete for the Horizon League championship,” Cecchini said. “The immediate goal is to qualify for the championship. And once we qualify, then I’d really like to start fighting for that championship.”
Cecchini plans to spend a lot of time recruiting this offseason, but she also believes in her current players and wants to help them improve.
“I love them so much,” Cecchini said. “I’m always going to be there for them. I’m going to give them every opportunity that they want to get better.”
Contact Jack Vita at email@example.com.