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Jim Daugherty Retires After 35 Seasons Leading Valpo Men’s Tennis

Victory Bell


Fall 2021

As Jim Daugherty reflects on his 35-year career as the head men’s tennis coach at Valparaiso University, the championships, awards and well over 300 victories are all secondary.

The accomplishments are meaningful, but the relationships mean the most for the now retired Daugherty, who also served as the head coach of the Valpo women’s tennis program for 10 seasons and taught for three decades in the University’s physical education and kinesiology departments.

The accolades and achievements are numerous, but the most important number is one no statistician can tabulate — the number of lives impacted during his lengthy tenure on campus.

“In a word, I would say community,” Coach Daugherty says when asked what makes Valpo special to him. “My wife and I found Valparaiso University and the city of Valparaiso to be a great community setting. We met a lot of great friends through the years in the area and we’ve enjoyed our time here immensely. The relationships you build with your players and assistant coaches will always trump winning championships.”


In the summer of 1985, a young Daugherty approached Valparaiso Director of Athletics Bill Steinbrecher with a request to host a tennis camp at the University’s courts. The modest proposal for a few weeks of court usage turned into a relationship that would last 35 years between Coach Daugherty and Valparaiso University.

“Bill asked for my résumé to make sure I was legitimate before approving the camp,” Coach Daugherty says. “He called me back and said, ‘It looks very good. You can do your summer tennis camp, but I also wanted to ask you if you’d consider being our tennis coach.’”

Daugherty began as a part-time coach, leading both the men’s and women’s programs. A few years later, he had an offer for a full-time position at a different institution, but Valpo came back with the opportunity for him to move into a fulltime role teaching classes and continuing his coaching duties, an offer attractive enough for him to stay.


The program reached new heights late in Coach Daugherty’s tenure, setting university records for victories in four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017, a stretch that culminated with back-to-back Horizon League titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.

Doubles partners Jeffrey Schorsch ’17 and Charlie Emhardt ’17 garnered individual feats that were previously unprecedented for the program, advancing all the way to the national title match in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in the fall of 2016. In the spring of 2017, they reached the NCAA Doubles Elite Eight, becoming the first All-Americans in program history.

Valpo clinched the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history by beating Green Bay to win the Horizon League title on May 1, 2016.

“Winning the first championship stands out because of the jubilation that I saw with the players and the assistant coaches,” Coach Daugherty says. “It was the biggest hurdle that our program had overcome. It meant a lot to me, but most of all it was rewarding to see how much it meant to the players and my assistant coaches.”

The team repeated a year later, edging Cleveland State 4-3 to finalize another NCAA Tournament berth on April 30, 2017.

The story of Jim Daugherty simply can’t be told without the story of Michael Woodson ’12, the former Valpo student- athlete perhaps most closely tied with Coach Daugherty’s Valpo legacy. Michael, whose father Tracy was the head baseball coach at Valpo at the time, transferred in from North Carolina State in January 2010 to play for Coach Daugherty. When his college days ended, Michael began his coaching career on Coach Daugherty’s staff and played a key role in assembling the championship core.

“Coach Daugherty is a father figure to me,” says Michael, now the head coach at Baylor University. “He is a man who I call when I have questions about anything in life. When something good happens, I want to share it with him. He was somebody who was always there for you. Anybody who has ever played for him or coached under him would say the same. He’s on the short list of people you know you can call and he’ll be there for you.”


Coach Daugherty’s ability to connect with others and the relationships he built with his student-athletes and colleagues will forever be at the forefront of his Valpo legacy. The consensus among the alumni base is clear: Coach Daugherty’s unmatched authenticity made him special.

“I can’t stress enough Coach’s connection with his players,” Jon Coles ’99 says. “Coach got the best out of every player because he cared. Coach wasn’t one of those recruiters who ‘talked the talk’ about caring and being a family. He lived it. We played hard for him because we genuinely loved the guy.”

Nate Buckert ’02 was among the many on-court success stories under Coach Daugherty’s tutelage. He started his career as a walk-on and finished it as an elite player and the 2002 Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year.

“Honestly, I think Coach Daugherty was the program,” Buckert says. “He built it from square one. Nothing happened overnight, and the work that he put in paid off at the end of his coaching career. He was a fatherly figure. He was not only the coach, but he was a leader on and off the court.”

Coach Daugherty, who won five conference Coach of the Year awards spread over four different decades, provided unyielding compassion and never expected recognition. He impacted not only 35 seasons worth of men’s tennis players at Valpo, but also 10 years of women’s tennis players, three decades of kinesiology students and numerous coaching colleagues, administrators, faculty members and staff members.

“Jim Daugherty’s accomplishments at Valpo are easily seen in the quality of the student-athletes that have made up the tennis program over the years,” Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera says. “He is a true educator. He and his teams have represented the University with class and determination. He has for the past 35 years, and always will, personify the Valpo Experience.”

Topics Athletics Tennis

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