Coach helps tennis teams rise to win MAC championships
February 7, 2012
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Although the Wilkes University men and women tennis teams are not one of the most popular sports to watch, they have been one of the more dominant teams here on campus. The men and women programs are led by the same coach, Chris Leicht. Upon entering the head-coaching job for the Wilkes University Colonels tennis teams were below. 500 average winning percentages. They were always a team towards the bottom of the Middle Atlantic Conference for its existence.
Leicht was the man to turn around both the tennis teams around. Starting at the age of 10 he has been playing the sport of tennis. He has always lived around Wilkes-Barre area, growing up in Danville, Pa. When attending Danville High School, he was on the varsity tennis team.
After graduating high school he decided not to play tennis collegiately. In 2000, he graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in business administration and also earning masters in business administration. His first job was at his alma madder, Danville high school. As he took the men’s varsity team he had early success. And that success continued throughout his tenure there.
He compiled 57 wins and 4 losses. In his final two years at Danville High School his team won the league and district IV championship and advanced to the state semi finals, which they lost back-to-back years, losing to identical scores (3-2). “ I left Danville High School for a better job opportunity” Leicht says.
He came to Wilkes University as the director of residence life. He grew to miss the game. So began his coaching career with the Colonels as a volunteer assistant. Very soon after, the Wilkes University athletics department offered Leicht the head coaching position of the men’s team.
After one season with the men’s program Leicht was offered the women’s head coaching job as well. Taking over both programs he knew he had his work cut out for himself.
He prides himself on his team because of the work he puts into it. The main reason on why the turn around of these programs happened quickly was because of the great recruiting.
“Bringing in better players was the start of becoming a better program”, Leicht says.
The coach has his methods with recruiting, he usually recruits within a three-hour radius of Wilkes University. He recruits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. He also benefits from the United Tennis Student Association, which is a high school tennis program that gives out rankings to players so it is easier to find a player that best fits your team.
Division III sports is the lowest level of collegiate sports but a very competitive level. It is a difficult task to find talent that is good enough to make you successful in any Division III sport. The difficult part is, if that talent is good enough why is he/she not going to a Division I or Division II schools. In Division III you have to work very hard and travel a lot to find these players that will be successful in Division III. You have to be very persistent and make the player feel most comfortable with your program and your school as if it was the perfect fit.
“Recruiting is difficult for everyone in every sport” Leicht says. Leicht definitely has his work cut out for since he has double the work for recruiting because of both the men and women programs.
The amount of success that he is having is remarkable. The work that goes into making one successful team is a tough task but Leicht has done it with two teams consistently.
“Coach was one of the main reasons I came to Wilkes University,” says men’s tennis player Brandon Helfrich. “He was always in contact with me and always checked up on me to see how I was doing in tennis and in overall life. He made me feel wanted as a player and that makes you feel good as a recruited athlete,” Helfrich says. ‘
Coach Leicht is a great recruiter because you are not just his player he actually cares about you. So that makes you feel more comfortable coming to this school to play for him.’
Men’s tennis player Clarke Freeman agrees. “You want to come here and play for Coach Leicht because there is a standard that he holds you to and that is winning championships.” Since the Men’s program has won the last four Middle Atlantic Conference championships and the Women’s program won the last five MAC championships, this is an attractive area for tennis players. Championships are the goal of any athlete, no matter what the level the athlete is playing on.
Another reason why Leicht says the Colonels have had more success recently is because that his players are playing in two seasons every school year.
The reason his players can play in two seasons is with the addition of the UCOM an indoor facility that includes three indoor tennis courts, so even in the winter when you can not play outside the Wilkes University Colonels tennis team is in training and getting better.
Dring the time between the two seasons the tennis players are always at work. Thanks to Wilkes University’s Fitness Center down stairs of the Marts Gymnasium both men and women’s tennis teams are lifting and trying to improve their game.
“We have lifting three a week and speed and agility training whenever we have free time” says Helfrich. “No one on this team needs to be forced into the weight room. The whole team wants to get in here and make themselves better. There is a standard and we all abide to it.”
Alex Makos is one of the leaders for the men’s tennis team. “No one is going to train as hard as me, I will be the most ready for the season.”, said Makos.
Chris Leicht has done so much in 10 years here at this university. He said he has no interest in leaving Wilkes because he loves being at a small school, has been successful and is close to his family.
The Colonels look to continue their success on Feb. 18 as they travel to Madison, N.J to play in the Drew University Invitational.