Every week LWSN highlights a coach. Rick Cotton is the subject of this week’s Coach’s Corner feature and is the head coach of the Eastern tennis team.
What is your history with athletics in your personal life?
I started playing tennis in middle school, and I was on both the tennis team and swim team at my high school. I’ve continued to play tennis ever since, and still do to this day at age 65. I’ve always enjoyed participating in sports, and have played volleyball and basketball, and I’m currently playing golf and softball as well as tennis. Although tennis is the primary sport that I’ve coached, I’ve also coached volleyball, girls’ basketball, and swimming.
How did you obtain your current coaching position?
I was hired for my first job as a math teacher at Louisville Central High School in 1974, and I started a boys’ tennis team there. A year later I took over the girls’ team there as well, and coached at Central until I transferred to Eastern High School in 1986. I’ve taught and coached at Eastern ever since, and just completed my 44th year of coaching high school tennis in Louisville.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to coaches who care about their players, inspire their players, and who do it for the love of the sport, not just for the wins. Examples are Bob Love, who coached at Desales High School, Cliff Richardson at Atherton, Terry Johnson at Franklin County High School, and Joe Kroh at St. X.
What are two primary goals you have/had for your team this season?
My goals for my girls’ team this season was for them to be competitive with the top teams, to see individual improvement, and for them to enjoy playing the sport of tennis and enjoy being part of the team. I believe we accomplished all of those goals this year.
What is the hardest part of coaching for you?
Cutting players from the team is hard for me because I want to get as many students involved in tennis as I can. Unfortunately, logistics such as court availability force me to set some sort of limit on the number of players that can be on the team, which means that at times I must make cuts.
What qualities do you hope to instill in your players that they can take with them to their families, careers, and society?
I hope they learn to work hard, to be part of a team, to listen and take direction, to win and lose gracefully, and to be physically fit.
How do you motivate your best athletes to work even harder?
I encourage all of them, not just the best, to set goals and work toward them.
What’s your favorite memory as a coach?
I’ve had players to win state titles twice, and those are favorite moments. Other favorite memories are when I have players from my teams earn tennis scholarships and play in college.
What does coaching bring to you or your family?
Tennis is a family sport for us. My kids Lauren and Chris both played tennis for me at Eastern, and went on to play at Bellarmine University. Chris has coached Eastern’s tennis teams with me in the past and now my wife Susan is coaching with me.
What is the greatest philosophy you live by?
I try to enjoy every moment, no matter what a day brings. I enjoy my job as a teacher and as a coach, and I’m passionate about getting kids involved in sports. Tennis is a sport for a lifetime, and if I can spark that interest in tennis in them while they’re in high school, there’s a good chance that they’ll continue to play for the rest of their lives. I play in USTA leagues, and often run into former players of mine who are also playing in leagues; it gives me a lot of pride that I had a part in giving them their start in tennis.