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 for an SCAC institution and went on to become head coaches in the conference.
In this week's first SCAC Spotlight feature, we sit down with Ryan Dodd, who played tennis at DePauw University (Class of 2010) when that insitution was a member of the SCAC and is now the head men's and women's tennis coach at Austin College.
Austin College’s head tennis coach, Ryan Dodd, is no stranger to the SCAC philosophy and high standards.
The Columbus, Ohio native attended and played tennis for DePauw University while a student for four years. A family affair, he had his sights set on calling DePauw home when his older sister attended a few years prior to him. He also chose the Tigers for his chance to help bring tennis championships home.
“As the DePauw University men’s tennis team continued to improve, it became much more of an attractive destination for me to decide to go there because it already had the academic reputation,” Dodd said.
With multiple offers from many institutions, including Division I, Dodd chose to play DIII for many reasons.
"I think D3 gives you an opportunity to get a meaningful education while competing for a championship, depending upon the program that you choose," Dodd said. "And then I think I chose D3 again as a coach and to go down this road, and I chose the SCAC again because of its well-respected academic reputation and how easy it is to recruit a student-athlete to an SCAC school because of the reputation that these schools have academically and I think because of the reputation they have competitively, too. It really made it easy for me to kinda come in and really craft a team that I think is really fast rising."
At the start of his senior season, an injured Dodd asked his coach, Scott Riggle, if he needed any help with the team. That evening, Riggle put Dodd down as a coach for a doubles team which won DePauw’s lone doubles point in the match against Kalamazoo. That one match got Dodd hooked to coaching.
After graduation, Dodd went on to coach athletes at the club and high school levels while working toward his master’s degree from Bowling Green University. While his ultimate goal was to become an athletics administrator, but a former professor told Dodd to pursue coaching at the collegiate level first to get his foot in the door.
He worked his way up to coaching at the collegiate level, landing his first college coaching gig at Rhodes College.
But what makes a good tennis coach?
“Determination because there are always going to be peaks and boughs in terms of the layouts of any athletic season but I think determination can apply to multiple different aspects of the tennis coaches job related activity,” Dodd said.
Once Dodd saw an open position at Austin College, he applied. While he was familiar with the SCAC philosophy and standards, and he believed he stood out in the application pool because of his SCAC references.
"I think, in all honesty, the preparation that a former SCAC school, DePauw University, provided me academically," Dodd said. "I cant say enough how well-prepared I was to assume this position because I went to a Division III school and one that was a flagship member of the SCAC in it's earlier days. I was more prepared than I even thought I would be to be a head coach in this conference."
Many reasons led Dodd to come back to an SCAC school, and he hasn’t looked back since. Dodd believes the mutual respect between all coaches at each school was a key factor. He also got a great impression from Austin College’s Athletic Director, David Norman, during his interview. Lastly, Division III and the SCAC puts athlete’s academics at a caliber level.
“I think that had made all the justifications for why I chose Austin College and why I chose to come back to the SCAC,” Dodd said.
"I think determination kind of sums it up, for me personally," Dodd said. "Because I'm determined to build a successful program here at Austin College and put Austin College on the national tennis spectrum."
Dodd’s road to becoming a coach was a bit bumpier than most but he has some advice to those wanting to follow similar footsteps.
“Be willing to fail,” Dodd said. “Be willing to put it all on yourself and ask your students to put their best effort into every day and every action.”