Each Friday during the 2017-18 academic year, the conference office will release a SCAC Spotlight feature story. For the first 13 weeks, the focus of these feature stories will be former student-athletes who played at an SCAC institution and went on to become head coaches in the conference.
In this, the twelfth SCAC Spotlight feature, we sit down with Trinity University's Head Men's Tennis Coach, Russell McMindes, who is grateful for the relationships the SCAC and Division III has brought him.
Russell McMindes was always athletic growing up, dabbling into baseball, basketball, football and more. But one day when his gym bag was stolen at school and his middle school football team wanted him to practice in his school clothes, McMindes called it quits from football.
From that point on, McMindes completely focused on tennis with one of his best friends who got him into the sport in the first place. When his high school years were over, McMindes wasn’t ready to leave the courts.
McMindes and his friend found NAIA Oklahoma Christian University, a university with a great engineering program and a tennis team- the two things McMindes was looking for in a university. The duo joined the team together. McMindes quickly found out the athletic program wasn’t what he wanted. Missing the team atmosphere and being around people more his age, McMindes got in touch with his former coach who was the assistant coach at Trinity University.
As a San Antonio native living in the outskirts of the city, McMindes never really got to see TU’s campus outside of the tennis courts, but when he found out Trinity also had a great engineering program, he wanted to see beyond the courts. TU was now on McMindes’ radar for the next chapter of his life.
Despite being so close to home, McMindes said he got the full college experience he was looking for at Trinity. He was a stand-out on the court as a Tiger. McMindes made the 1999 All-SCAC team in #3 doubles. Two years later, McMindes made the 2001 All-SCAC team in #6 singles and #2 doubles. That same year, the Trinity Tigers men’s tennis team became the NCAA Division III National Champions.
“It was neat to be part of that program and to become just part of the history and the legacy that is Trinity tennis,” McMindes said. “It’s got such a long and storied tradition, that it was now neat to be permanently part of that.”
As a student, coaching wasn’t exactly McMindes’ next step after graduation. But as the big day quickly approached and a coaching opportunity at his local tennis club became open, McMindes decided to give it a shot.
He was hooked.
A few months later, a position opened at his alma mater under his former coach, Butch Newman. McMindes applied and was offered the assistant coach position. Back on the courts he once competed on, the transition from athlete to coach was smooth for McMindes.
After six seasons as an assistant, Newman stepped down and McMindes took over the program. Under McMindes’ direction, the Trinity Tigers men’s tennis team earned eight SCAC Players of the Year, eight SCAC champion finishes, plenty of NCAA Tournament appearances, one ITA National Indoor Team Championship, and 12 players have earned All-American honors.
McMindes also tried his hand on the women’s side of the sport for the 2011-2012 season which Trinity captured their first SCAC Championship since 2006 under his leadership.
But it’s not just his players and teams that have gathered multiple honors, McMindes is also a decorated coach as well. McMindes was named the 2009 ITA West Region Men’s Tennis Assistant of the Year, has been selected as the SCAC Coach of the Year seven times, and was named the 2014 Wilson/ITA National Division III Coach of the Year.
Of course with all of his success, McMindes had interests reach out to him to coach at different schools or at different levels of the sport, but McMindes wants to stay with Trinity University and the SCAC for a multitude of reasons.
“Ultimately, I’ve had such a long tenure here, knowing the program inside and out, I just really feel called to be here,” McMindes said. “I feel like we still have some work to accomplish here, I’d like to get out of that hump. We’ve won national indoors, we’ve won some individual national awards, but I’d love to see this team win another team NCAA tournament, and I feel like we’re capable of doing that. I just ultimately continue to feel called back into this program, I’ve been here exactly half of my life so it’s a huge part of who I am and I enjoy it here.”
The Division III coaching world has given McMindes so many relationships, experiences, and memories that he’s grateful for.
“I feel like some of my truly best friends within our organization all came through the Division III coaching,” McMindes said. “It’s not just talking about tennis, we’re actually friends at this point. I think that part [is what] I like about Division III and even the SCAC. You’re seeing now, a lot of people that we have [in the SCAC], have some common threads. [Ryan Dodd] at Austin College has the same stories I do about playing in the SCAC so I think that’s kind of neat to share that.”
Previous SCAC Spotlights:
01|05|2018 - Dylan Harrison, Trinity University
12|15|2017 - Austin Carrola, Schreiner University
12|08|2017 - Cameron Hill, Trinity University
12|01|2017 - Janson Hightower, Southwestern University
11|17|2017 - Sam Davidson, Schreiner University
11|10|2017 - Mark Hudson, Austin College
10|27|2017 - Matt Barber, University of Dallas
10|20|2017 - Jeherme Urban, Trinity University
10|13|2017 - David Foley, Centenary College
10|06|2017 - Emily Daum, Trinity University
09|29|2017 - Ryan Dodd, Austin College