Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Coaches can make a difference"

Bruce is on the right

This past Monday and Tuesday, my good friend and tennis partner from college, Bruce McKinnon and I  spent two fantastic days visiting Steve Wilkinson at his home in St. Peter, Minnesota, which is the  home of Gustavus college.

Steve arrived at Gustavus as a religion professor in 1970 and was asked if he would be willing to voluntarily coach the tennis team. Steve already had the background of playing at the University of Iowa where he finished second in #1 doubles at the Big Ten Championships his senior year.

When Steve said yes, the rest is history as Steve became the winningest coach in the history of collegiate men's tennis. Playing in the MIAC which consisted of NCAA 3 schools Steve's teams compiled a 334-1 record. Not content to play only division 3 schools, Steve's teams played division NCAA 2 and 1 teams as well, thus compiling an over all recorded of 929-260.

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Wilkinson picked up a racket at age 3 and according to an article in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune he would throw a fit until his parents would throw him tennis balls.  His favorite book was reported to be"The Little Engine That Could," which taught him to "never give up. Give your full effort." Later on Steve was also touched and influenced by the sportsmanship and court demeanor of his contemporary and good friend Arthur Ashe.

What is especially significant, is the philosophy and values that Steve came to embrace, pass on and teach at Gustavus with his players and through his clinics. With time his teams came to excel, courts were built, and with time Tennis and Life clinics were developed and a state of the art tennis center was created with 22 courts. Some of his guiding principals were as follows:

Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

My Cup is Half Full: Life is like a cup of water half filled. For some their cup is half empty. The level is the same, but I view it makes a huge difference.

Treat Others Fairly: I do not expect everything to work our fairly for me. Nevertheless, I promise to treat others fairly. I do to others as I would have them do to me. This the ultimate principle of fairness.

God Comes First: I believe that God comes first, others second, and myself third. I know that God's blessings and gifts stand behind every accomplishment for which I take credit.

Thus, in summary, Steve's focus has been on a few important points which center on making a full effort, always giving your best, having a positive attitude, showing good sportmanship and taking resonsibility for those things you can control and approaching all situations with confidence and a sense of optimism. As you may glean, these are also important life lessons.

Coach Steve Wilkinson

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