By: Athletic Communications Assistant Dustin Parker
BEREA, Ohio – Becoming a college coach requires a certain set of skills and qualities. Encompassing those necessary traits is Baldwin Wallace University senior men's basketball and men's tennis athlete Jake Elbin (Findlay).
Elbin has been involved with basketball and tennis his entire life. When he was young, his father was an assistant men's basketall coach at Findlay High School.
"My father was my main mentor. He taught me about a good work ethic, how to treat others and how to balance academics and athletics. He wouldn't accept average and always pushed me to be above average," Jake stated.
When Elbin was the ball boy for the Trogans, and coaches were in the offices after an away game, he remembers taking shots in the dark and dreaming of winning a state championship.
"I would be out on the court, visualizing myself coming down and nailing the three to win," Elbin reminisced.
In addition to his father, Elbin credits his high school basketball coach, Jim Rucki, for helping to solidify his dream of becoming a coach.
"His attitude and outlook towards the game intrigued me. His knowledge and willingness to share really helped me understand the game," Jake said.
While he played basketball most of his life, it wasn't until his freshman year of high school when Elbin started playing tennis competitively. Jake enjoyed the individualistic aspect of tennis and the freedom to have his own style on the court, but also loved basketball for the teamwork and continuity.
Knowing he wanted to be a coach, Elbin began pursuing for universities with sport management programs, and that is what brought him to BW's doorstep.
"I chose BW because of the location. The city of Cleveland has a lot of things to see, different walks of life and great food. I also knew that I didn't want to give up either sport and could compete in both here at BW," Elbin stated.
Before Jake became a Yellow Jacket, his older brother Zach Elbin '14 was a member of the BW tennis program.
"It meant a lot to follow my brothers' footsteps. I was able to relate to someone athletically and also academically. It helps that he went through the same system with head coach Brian Rector," Jake stated.
Rector has been a great coach to Elbin because he puts academics first, will do anything for his players and is a great mentor and friend.
"Jake is one of the very few student athletes that positively affect a program from day one," Rector said. "That first day for me was during the recruiting process when he and his mother came to visit BW. Since that time, Jake rose through the tennis lineup each year, starting at sixth singles his freshman year to ultimately leading the team as a senior at first singles and first doubles. He truly grew into the team leader and rock for the program and helped navigate us through good times and bad."
Not only has Elbin impacted the men's tennis program, he has also meant a great deal to the men's basketball program and head coach Tom Heil.
"Jake is a special young man. He worked extremely hard during his four years on the court and in the weight room," Heil added. "He was a terrific teammate and he is going to be an outstanding coach."
While playing tennis and basketball with a full course load, Jake has had to learn how to time manage and make sacrifices to be successful.
"There's one word that I would say really represents the time management and that is sacrifice. You have to make sacrifices in all aspects of life. The sport management program at BW has been helpful in being understanding and giving us the necessary opportunities to succeed," Elbin stated.
In his four years at BW, Jake has had many memories, but a couple really stuck out to him. One of those memories was when Elbin was a junior and the basketball team defeated the University of Mount Union in the 2018-19 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game, the first BW title since 2006.
"Winning that championship game at Mount Union was amazing to be a part of and was extremely rewarding. It was a special moment that not many BW teams have accomplished," Elbin said.
Before his senior season was abruptly ended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jake would go on to secure his 53rd career singles victory in his final match against Shoma Kishimoto of Cornel (Iowa) College. The triumph did not come easy as the match would take all three sets and nearly three hours to complete.
"It was our last day in Hilton Head. It was a hard fought match against one of the best kids I've played against at this level. I ended up pulling out a 10-5 third set to conclude my college career, before I even knew it would be my last match," Jake recalls.
That final victory elevated Elbin to the 26th spot on BW's all-time singles victory leaderboard with 53 total wins. When asked about his milestone, Jake credits his achievement to others that have helped him.
"To be honest, I never loved individual accomplishments," Jake said humbly. "It's more of a reflection of BW's men's tennis team. If I didn't compete everyday against good players, then I wouldn't have gotten better at all. The only reason why I have this milestone is because of my teammates, coaches and family continually pushing me to be better. It's nice, but it is not all me, it is more about the team."
Even though Elbin's senior spring season was cut short, he is ready to move on to the next step in his career, and has advice for all incoming student athletes.
"Enjoy it. I'm an optimistic person because there is no time not to be. Life is too short to be worrying about everything. Just got to do what makes you happy and enjoy every day."