Tommy Valentini, a native of Duluth, Minn. has been named the head men’s tennis coach at Gustavus Adolphus College. Valentini, who has been an assistant coach for the Gusties for the past three years, will replace Steve Wilkinson who is retiring after serving as the head coach for the past 39 years.
A 2002 Gustavus graduate and four-year letterwinner on the tennis team, Valentini is finishing his doctoral studies in kinesiology at the University of Minnesota. He is currently a graduate teaching assistant and primary instructor of history and philosophy of sport. In addition to his coaching responsibilities at Gustavus, Valentini will also be an instructor in the health and exercise science department teaching a class in sport ethics. The opportunity to become the head men’s tennis coach at Gustavus is a dream come true for Valentini. He stated, “I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to follow my coach and mentor Steve Wilkinson as the men’s tennis coach at Gustavus. I am excited about continuing the tradition of Gustie tennis that means so much to so many of us.” He added, “The example that Coach Wilkinson modeled for me as a player is what inspired me to pursue a career in teaching and coaching. I am thrilled to return home and become a part of the Gustavus community again.” Valentini will begin his full-time duties at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year in August.
Gustavus Athletics Director Al Molde feels that Valentini is a good fit for Gustavus and its athletics program. He stated, “It is very exciting to have Tommy join our coaching staff. His credentials, both athletically and academically, are impressive, especially at his young age. ” Molde also feels Valentini’s ties to the program will help the transition to a new coach. He added, “An outstanding player at Gustavus, Tommy understands and supports our program philosophy and is well connected among our tennis alumni. I have no doubt that Coach Valentini will be successful in continuing the legacy of the Gustavus tennis program.”
After graduating from Gustavus in 2002, Valentini accepted a position as the assistant women’s tennis coach at the University of Nebraska where he stayed until May of 2004. He then moved to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and pursued a master’s degree in theological studies at the Candler School of Theology. While at Emory, he was an assistant coach of the women’s tennis team and helped the Eagles win NCAA Division III Team Championships in 2005 and 2006. After completing his master’s work at Emory, Valentini returned to Minnesota to pursue his doctoral studies and at the same time became the part-time assistant coach at Gustavus with his mentor Wilkinson.
During his playing career at Gustavus, Valentini compiled a record of 60-7 in singles and 53-9 in doubles. In his senior year, he was the MIAC Champion at #4 singles and helped the Gusties post an overall mark of 30-4 including the program’s first ever ITA Indoor Championship, and a third place finish at the NCAA Championships. As accomplished in the classroom as he was on the tennis court, Valentini was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American compiling a 3.9 gpa with majors in honors history and religion. He received the Arthur Ashe Award for excellence in tennis, academics and humanitarian concerns from both the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) in 2001. In 2002, Valentini was awarded the Hollingsworth Key, which is presented to the Gustavus senior male athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average.
Valentini becomes the 16th head coach in the 83-year history of the men’s tennis program at Gustavus. The Gusties are the third winningest program in the history of Division III tennis with an all-time mark of 1048-424-3 (.711 winning percentage). Gustavus has claimed two NCAA Team Championships (1980, 1982), while also winning six national titles in doubles and four national titles in singles. In Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, Gustavus leads all programs in titles won with 39. Along with great teams, Gustavus has also been blessed with many outstanding individual players, which includes 46 players who have received All-America honors, and 100 who have received All-Conference honors. The program also has the distinction of having had five players receive the National ITA Arthur Ashe Award, which is given to one player a year that best combines tennis ability, academic accomplishment, community service and sportsmanship. That total is tied with Stanford for the most winners in all divisions of collegiate tennis.