For most, an athlete’s senior year is a time for them to shine; a time to see the results of the hard work they have put together for the last four years.
For Valpo men’s tennis player Brian Hickey, things are a little different.
The Western Springs native burst on to the scene and made an immediate impact, winning 11 matches in his freshman campaign. And after notable 10-3 and 12-6 records in singles play in his sophomore and junior seasons, Hickey has moved to a role on the bench in the final season of his tennis career.
“He comes from a position where as a freshman he was starting and has transitioned to a role on a better team where he’s not getting to see the court that often,” associate head coach Michael Woodson said. “That could be really difficult for some guys, but Brian has really embraced his role and he’ll do anything and everything to help the team win.”
This includes maniacally yelling while cheering on his teammates in action.
“Brian’s always been extremely loud when it comes to cheering on the other guys,” Woodson said. “He sets the bar high for the other guys as far as support for each and every one of them.”
But more significant are the words he says to his teammates and the friend he is to them off the court.
“I try to set an example for all of the younger guys,” Hickey said. “I try to be there for them in their difficult times and be someone they can go to.”
Returning from the offseason, Woodson says Hickey showed up ten pounds overweight—but not for the reason one might think. Hickey spent the summer of 2015 in South Africa and Zambia on a sports ministry missions trip.
Hickey, who also has spent hours in prisons doing “prison ministry,” went into different impoverished towns and taught young kids how to play tennis, while sharing his biggest passion with them: his faith.
“It was a transformative experience, just tasting and seeing what God can do when you put all your trust in him and let him work through you,” Hickey said.
The trip was life-changing and spawned Hickey’s first step post-graduation. Although he is a double-major in business management and political science, Hickey decided the corporate world could wait.
“For the last two or three years, I’ve always wanted to do something like international missions [or] international service work,” Hickey said. “Last summer was kind of like a trial run to commit myself for two months to that. That experience [that was] transforming me just made me want to do that for a year or two after college.”
Hickey will be spending the next year doing missionary work in Israel, working at a Christian school.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Woodson said. “Based on what he’s doing and what he’s doing it for, he’s going to be watched over very closely from the Lord above. I’m just excited because he has so many things to spread and so many wonderful experiences. Whoever he impacts over there will be very fortunate.”
But for now, Hickey is just focused on the goal his team has put in place: to win the Horizon League Championship for the first time in the program’s history.
“I haven’t coached an extremely long time,” Woodson said. “And Brian’s been on my team since I started. It’s going to be hard to coach somebody that’s as good as a teammate and is as good of a person as Brian. I may have guys in the future that come close, but you can’t be a better person than Brian Hickey.”