Loogootee High School Boys Tennis coach, Rick Graves, earned his 500th career victory in a win over Wood Memorial on Monday, September 25th. Graves began his tennis career on his hometown courts in Vincennes, Indiana. Organized high school tennis was just beginning during his Senior year of high school and he was just beginning to learn to play the game. Tennis was very popular in the community. The city offered tennis teams and several tournaments in the summer and fall. This is where Coach began to learn and love the game.
Graves’ journey of Loogootee Tennis success began in the spring of 1987 when the Girls coaching position became available. Graves applied, was hired, and coached girls tennis for 12 seasons. In the fall of 1988, he also became the boys tennis coach and coached both teams for 10 years. He was named IHSTeCA District V Coach of the Year in both 1998 and 2001. Following the 2007 season, he retired from coaching, but returned in 2012. In 2015, Coach Graves was inducted into the Indiana Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In that same year, the LHS Tennis Courts became the Rick Graves Tennis Complex in honor of Coach Graves. This current season is his 26th season of coaching boys tennis.
Loogootee Tennis has continually set and broke records under Graves’ reign. He coached the boys’ teams to 17 sectional wins and the girls teams to 7 sectional wins. His current record going into tonight’s sectional final game is 501-200. That breaks down to 350-138 for the boys’ teams and 151-62 for the girls teams. This current boys season holds the record for the most wins in a season with 19.
With coaching in so many matches, there are a wealth of memories. However, there are two that really stuck out to Graves among the rest. “The first is when we defeated Vincennes Lincoln in 1989 when they were ranked 6th or 7th in the state. We won all three singles spots that night in one of the most competitive and tightly contested matches I’ve been involved in. The other is the time our girls team defeated Jasper. Brenda (Byrer) Rousch won a third-set tiebreak to win the match for us. It’s the only time our girls or boys teams have defeated Jasper.”
Coach Graves says that his is most influenced by Arthur Ashe, whom he considers his personal hero. He was the first African-American to win Wimbledon and the US Open. More importantly he lived a life of high moral character and conviction. He influenced many great tennis players but also created a lot of change in our world through his example. Graves tries to use his example as much as possible in coaching.
Coaching takes a love and knowledge of the sport, as well as a huge time commitment. Coach Graves attributes having a very supporting family to being able to coach a sport for which he has passion. This is something Graves says is necessary to be a good coach. He also recommends “picking the brains” of as many people in the profession as you can, joining your Coaches Association, and attending coaches’ clinics to stay current on the latest in your sport.
Being a coach has been one of the most rewarding things that Graves has reported ever to have done. LHS has been rewarded by having a coach that has been so committed to his program and players. As another season is approaching an end, the Lions reflect on how lucky they are to have a coach with such knowledge and commitment at the helm.