Rick Graves had only been employed at Loogootee High School as a teacher for a short time when he threw his name in the hat for a job that would change the Lions’ tennis program forever. Graves had a passion and love for the sport, but he’d never played in high school or college, but that didn’t matter. Now, 452 victories later in both boys and girls tennis, the hiring of Graves is one of the best decisions the Loogootee athletic department ever made.
With a victory last week over Paoli, Graves earned his 300th win as the boys tennis coach with a victory Sept. 26 at Paoli. He also has 151 wins as the girls coach to bring his overall record as a high school tennis coach to 452-169 (.739) with 24 sectional team championships. When Graves took the job coaching the girls team in 1987, he had no expectations of how long he would hold the job or how successful he would be.
“I kind of thought about the future and how long I could do this,” Graves said. “At first I thought 20 years would probably be a good stopping point. With the boys I did 20 years and then was out of it for a little bit and then they needed someone so I came back to it, but I really had no idea how long I would stay with it. Here I am all these years later.”
Graves coached girls from 1987-1998, and soon after he took over coaching the girls team, he took on the boys team as well. Being able to coach both teams gave Graves a interesting dynamic of being able to coach different personalities while still staying successful.
“Athletically there isn’t a whole lot of difference between boys and girls,” Graves said. “I’ve always had players that were pretty dedicated so when it came to that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference. When it comes to the psychological difference with girls versus boys that would be the difference. Overall it’s pretty much the same game, it is just how you handle girls versus boys that is a little bit different.”