Tennis has always been a part of life for Chris Wylie ’92 of Appleton, Wisconsin.
Wylie has coached tennis at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley in Menasha since 2005. He was named the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference Men’s Coach of the Year after the men’s team won the 2012 state championship. It was the first state championship for the team in 20 years.
In the 2013 state championship, both the men’s and women’s teams captured the state championships. Wylie again was named Coach of the Year in both the men’s and women’s divisions. This was the first time the Fox Valley teams won State Team Championships in the same season.
“I don’t set out to be Coach of the Year,” Wylie says. “My goal is to facilitate self-efficacy in players. It’s not what they do on the court but what they learn on the court that makes them better human beings. Being Coach of the Year is a just a byproduct of them being successful. I do the same things in years we’ve gotten our butts kicked as when I became Coach of the Year. Becoming Coach of the Year just makes people notice more.”
Wylie grew up in Appleton, Wis. Both his parents played tennis, and his father was a state-ranked player. Wylie played throughout high school, but when he came to Ripon he had a different mindset and didn’t play.
“Ripon appealed to me,” he says. “I turned down a tennis scholarship from another school to go to Ripon. I thought Ripon would help me in my career.”
He started with a philosophy major but switched to religion. “There were so many elements of trying to answer deeper questions,” he says.
He studied philosophy in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and finished with a degree in education from Carroll University. “Everything is having a knowledge base to draw from, to determine who you are and what you want to do,” Wylie says. “When you start thinking more broadly, there are ways to accomplish the same objectives through multiple means.”
He found an ideal platform in education, he says. He previously worked in activities and/or tennis positions at Lawrence University in Appleton, Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, the Harry and Rose Samson Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay and Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. He has taught theology and religion.
In addition to his coaching duties in Menasha, he has been the student activities and orientation coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County in Rice Lake since January 2013.
On the tennis court, he finds a spiritual sense of purpose. “It goes back to religion questions,” Wylie says. “Essentially, what I like about coaching is instilling a sense of mission and meaning to things. A Zen approach almost. Participating in something larger than yourself and finding the joy in doing — that is what I find really valuable. I strive to develop a sense of purpose and commitment to one another in the teams that I work with now.
“Building a sense of community is something I find most achievable through athletics, contributing to the overall quality of student life and things outside of the classroom,” whether or not the team is a winning one in terms of tournaments.
Wylie says this grounding comes from his education at Ripon College. With each team he has coached, he says, “I have not done a thing differently in terms of my fundamental approach. That came from what I learned at Ripon. That’s been incredibly valuable to me, to find meaning in things rather than just take things for granted.”
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