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Nash building reputation as Iowa tennis coach

BY KEVIN GLUECK | SEPTEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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Steve Nash might look like a football coach with his muscular build, shaved head, and goatee. Nash’s specialty is a non-contact sport, but the Drake graduate still brings a physical brand of coaching to the Iowa men’s tennis team.

Very few get the opportunity to have their first coaching job in the Big Ten — this is not the case for Nash. Just a few years ago, he wasn’t even coaching at the college level.

“I was lucky,” Nash said and laughed. “There are about 1,000 people that would want this job. It was luck that [men’s head] coach [Steve Houghton] gave it to me.”

Nash had been a tennis instructor for UI Recreational Services. Houghton noticed his coaching style and asked him to be a part of the coaching staff in in 2006 when assistant coach Matt Brothers left for the head-coach position at DePaul. Nash has developed into a complete assistant coach, even taking trips to Europe to recruit future Hawkeyes.

“Over the years I’ve increased and increased his responsibilities,” Houghton said. “He’s more involved in recruiting year-by-year, and he’s doing more administrative work than he did before.”

Most notably, Nash has taken over the responsibility of being the on-the-court coach at practice, while Houghton gives direction from the sideline.  In fact, Houghton trusts his assistant coach so much that he sits on a lawn chair on the side of the court and simply observes. With this format, practices don’t seem typical.

“He’s very creative in the types of drills we do,” Houghton said. “I think he has a good sense of what we need to get at. “

Nash uses his background in strength and conditioning to plan practices. Players start off every training session with sprints and a plethora of pushups.

“Practices are really intense,” junior Michael Swank said. “He tries to incorporate fitness into the hits … everyone tries to draw from his own experience [to coach]. He’s into [mixed martial arts] and fitness. He tries to instill toughness on us.”

Sophomore Matt Hagan was nearly speechless when asked to describe Nash’s coaching style.

“He’s a really intense guy,” Hagan said. “It’s a positive thing. He likes to push people to their furthest level mentally and physically. Every single day, every single player is making progress.”

Nash is not always serious, however. Throughout practice, he can be seen joking around and giving his players a hard time.

“It helps because it keeps practice light,” Swank said. “At the same time, he knows when to kick it into another gear to get us to perform at our highest level possible.”

Houghton believes Nash has improved every year as a coach and has the chance to go on to become a head coach.

“Everything I’m doing now is to learn as much about this craft as I can,” Nash said.  “The tennis part of this is easy — it’s Xs and Os. The hard part is learning how to deal with things off court. It’s how to put together a team.”


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