An era stretching nearly four decades in Jefferson is down to its final month.
Lou Murphy, longtime Falcons tennis coach, will be retiring when the girls season ends after 38 years patrolling Jefferson’s tennis courts.
Murphy, also a physical education teacher at Jefferson Area High School, wanted to call it a career after the 2018 season, but he was persuaded into coaching one more season and has not regretted it.
“I wanted to retire from coaching then teach one more year to see how it affected me, but yeah, they talked me into it and I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I love my girls. They’ve improved a lot and if I was to say something about the last 38 years … if I can get one thing out there, all those players that committed a part of their life towards this program, to let them know how much that meant to me.
“Because this is a hard game to get good at. It’s a very strategic, powerful game when you get to a higher level and I’ve had many players, boys and girls, over the years that commit to it and they work so hard in the summer and that’s what kept me going.”
Jefferson’s first-doubles tandem of Meg Jacobs and Tatum Martinez gave Murphy one last county title run during last weekend’s all-county girls tennis tournament. They won their first two matches to advance out of their pool and defeated Lakeside in two sets for the title.
“When I think of him, I think of ‘weird,’” Jacobs, a senior, said with a laugh. “He’s played for a lot of years, so he’s gone through it all and he always gives good advice.”
Martinez, only a freshman, benefitted from her one year under Murphy.
“He’s just always thinking about how he can help us all improve,” she said. “He’s serious when he needs to be, which is a good thing for coaches.”
That final first-doubles match over Lakeside had an additional storyline as Dragons coach Bob Walters coached Murphy at Ashtabula when the latter was in high school.
“Outstanding. Hard worker. A comedian,” Walter said of Murphy as a player. “He definitely was a very strong tennis player … He was on good teams and he was one of the best players on the team, so we had a lot of fun.”
The former coach and player have faced off a few times when it comes to coaching against each other over the years, but according to Walters, that hasn’t changed anything between them.
“The relationship hasn’t grown differently, because he’s like my son anyway and has been through all those years,” Walters said. “He’s very knowledgeable and he cares about his team and he cares about people he’s close to and that’s all you can ask.”
Murphy rattled off many names of former players who motivated him to keep coaching when he began to look back through the years.
Although Murphy is done coaching tennis, he plans to keep playing it. One of his future opponents will be someone who motivated him to keep coaching and someone he’s very familiar with on and off the court.
“My son (Louis) is still playing tennis in college, he’s got one more year, but yeah, I’m ready to be done and possibly even play a little,” Murphy said. “I still enjoy playing … (Louis) is one of the reasons that has motivated me since his sixth grade. He started getting into tennis after baseball and me and him started training.
“He was my assistant coach with my teams. I would go home, talk with him about it. He would give me ideas, because he’s coming from college now, giving me ideas and I’m like ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ And now me and him, we play. I can still hang with him, but I get really sore.
“I told him, I said I don’t want to give in to losing to you, yet.”