After nearly 35 years at Valpo, Men’s Tennis Coach Jim Daugherty has announced his resignation from the program. His final season with the team has been full of ups and downs, as well as a combination of nostalgia and excitement for the future.
“The timing feels right…,” Daugherty said. “Both my wife and I are ready for a new chapter in our lives… There’s a lot about it [that] I’m going to miss, but I’m ready to retire with my wife and do a little more travel and do some more things that we’ve wanted to do.”
When Daugherty first came to Valpo, his intentions were to utilize the university’s tennis courts to teach and to host camps for players. It quickly turned into a much bigger commitment.
When Coach Daugherty first joined Valpo Tennis, the program was almost nonexistent.
“Building any program is a process,” Daugherty said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things - you have to have the support of the university, both manpower and resources, in a number of ways.”
Daugherty claims that the base of any good program is connection.
“... When your previous players have had a great experience and your current players are having a great experience, they will sell recruits on why it’s so special to be here,” he said. “There’s nothing more rewarding than connecting with my student-athletes. And if it’s sincere, they will know that.”
While the goal of every coach is obviously to teach their players and to help them develop both into greater athletes and greater people, Daugherty says that he has learned quite a bit about himself as well on his coaching journey.
“As a young coach, winning and losing seem[ed] to be a priority. [My] priorities shifted toward enjoying the connections with [my] student-athletes [and] also enjoying the student-athletes connecting with each other. [Also] connecting with my student coaches… will be at the forefront of my memory.”
While winning is always nice when it happens, it is the moments of team bonding and unity that Daugherty will remember most.
“There [are] certain wins that stand out more, [but] not because it was necessarily a championship - it was because the team rallied behind each other in a big way. Those [moments] create great memories for the coaches and the players in that a win without team support is kind of an empty win…” Daugherty said. “There have been moments with close wins through the season where I felt the team willed those wins [to happen and] that they probably won those matches just because the level of team support and rallying around each other made it happen… Those are matches and memories that, whether big wins or small wins, stand out more for me.”
At the end of the day, it is not the wins or losses for which Daugherty wants to be remembered - it’s his relationship with his players.
“I would like to be known as a players’ coach…” he said. “So, even though I’ll dream big to win a national championship, ultimately… I hope I could just help make young people’s lives a little better somehow.”
While the program may have started with Daugherty, he is determined that it won’t end with him as well.
“I see bright things for the program in the future,” he said. “I think… some young energetic blood into the system will not be a bad thing… I think that there’s a lot of great tradition to build on here and excellent foundation at an excellent university that’s got great academics… I hope the foundation is set.”
Coach Daugherty’s Valpo legacy is that foundation - he helped to establish the Valpo tennis program both at the university and as a name in the Missouri Valley Conference.
And as his final encouraging note to athletes everywhere, Daugherty said humbly, “Personally, I don’t see how a student-athlete could go wrong [at Valpo] with or without Coach Daugherty.”