By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio -- Jack Bethlenfalvy has an even-keeled demeanor on the outside but the heart and soul of a fierce champion on the inside. As he transitions into his 34th spring as the women's tennis coach at Baldwin Wallace University, Bethlenfalvy is focused on bringing another Ohio Athletic Conference championship trophy back to Berea.
Jack Finds a Home at BW
"I was influenced by great teachers and coaches: Marcia French '63, Dave Demerle, Bob Fisher '63, Bob Packard '65 and Larry Van Dusen [all BW Hall of Fame coaches]," said Bethlenfalvy, who is the winningest women's tennis coach in OAC and Ohio collegiate history. "They introduced me to BW's culture, which fostered my love for the university. Throughout my years of coaching, I had opportunities to coach elsewhere, but the students, coaches and staff made BW feel like home."
"Jack is a great coach who knows the game," said recent Hall of Fame inductee Andrea Isaac Zak '07. "But more importantly, Jack is a wonderful person and human being.
"When you play for Jack, you become a member of Jack's family," said Isaac Zak, who now teaches and coaches tennis. "He is a father-figure who cares about every part of what you do, whether its academics, tennis, family and life in general. He cares, and that means a great deal to all of us who have had the great opportunity to play for him."
Bethlenfalvy graduated from Kent State University in 1968 where he was a Mid-American Conference doubles champion. Prior to coming to BW, he was a professional tennis instructor in nearby Strongsville at a local club. When the BW tennis job became available, Bethlenfalvy jumped at the chance.
"I started teaching tennis classes at BW 35 years ago and was asked by Marcia French [then the Women's Athletics Director] if I would be interested in coaching the women's tennis team," said Bethlenfalvy, who has a 379-290 career record
His Leadership Has Brought Success
In the past 13 seasons, Bethlenfalvy's teams have won 179 dual matches, four OAC titles, four OAC Tournament crowns and advanced to the NCAA Division III National Tournament four times. The BW women are still the only OAC team to advance past the first round since women's sports were added in the late 1980s.
"BW is fortunate to have a coach with the character and integrity of Jack Bethlenfalvy," said BW Director of Athletics Kris A. Diaz. "Jack is always interested in what is best for his student-athletes both on and off the court.
"Jack also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program and has been able to develop individuals and teams into successful OAC tennis players," said Diaz. "His teams have been OAC Champions and gone on to NCAA tournaments along with being one of the top academic teams within our athletic department.
"We appreciate all that Jack has done and continues to do to challenge, support and lead our women's tennis program," said Diaz. "We've had a highly successful program and look forward to continued success."
His Favorite Player and Why
"My most memorable season was the year I recruited Andrea Isaac," said Bethlenfalvy. "Her enthusiasm helped bring in players such as Maggie Glassburn, Tiffany Allison, Krista Marshall, Andrea Essig, and Alyssa Trumpert. That group elevated the team to be the best team in BW history.
"I knew we had a good team, so we played extremely competitive teams to prepare for conference matches," said Bethlenfalvy. "We played Div. I, Div. II and nationally-ranked Div. III teams. I wanted the team to learn how to set up and win points. Good teams force you to do that.
"We ended up winning the 2006-2007 OAC regular season and OAC Tournament titles and compiled a 25-3 overall record," said Bethlenfalvy, who also was named the OAC Coach of the Year that season. "And, for the first time in BW history, we qualified for the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
"We played nationally-ranked Albion (Mich.) College in the first round at Denison University," continued Bethlenfalvy. "The match was tied 4-4, and Andrea [Isaac], our team captain and first singles player, was the last one on the court and played the deciding match, which she won in three sets. I feel that the strong competition at the beginning of the season prepared us to compete at that high level."
His Friend Knows Why Jack is Successful
Brian Rector '89 is the winningest men's tennis coach in OAC and Ohio collegiate history with 512 wins and is in his 29th season as the head coach of his alma mater. He also is a friend and comrade to Bethlenfalvy.
"I have known Jack as coach, teacher and friend for more than 30 years," said Rector, who led his 2012 team to a school-record 29 wins, a 29-1 record, a pair of OAC titles and into the NCAA Division III National Tournament. "In each of those capacities, Jack has a unique way of making you feel like the center of attention in a very positive way. The common thread is his infectious outgoing personality and the way he can make any situation fun and the place to be.
"As a coach, you get the feeling that Jack genuinely cares about you and his team," said Rector. "This is evident during late night practice sessions, game days and even situations after the official tennis season ends. You also see his positive influence as you talk to his former tennis players after graduation time and time again.
"As a teacher, Jack always starts with the basics ensuring everyone starts with a strong base," continued Rector. "Once the base is set, his teaching style adjusts to the individual he is working with at the time to create a personal connection.
"As a friend, Jack always puts the needs of others before his own," said a smiling Rector. "I have witnessed this many times over the years especially in times of need. I am proud to know Jack as coach/teacher but most importantly proud to call him my friend."
The Key is Recruiting Quality Young Women
Bethlenfalvy has built his team into a championship program by recruiting quality young women who both excel first in the classroom and then on the tennis courts. He has mentored more than 100 Academic All-OAC student-athletes in his 34-plus seasons in Berea.
"I constantly attend high school matches, sectionals and districts, as well as state tournaments, and make sure to follow up with prospects," said Bethlenfalvy. "I also tout BW's highly-successful academic program and explain the culture of our women's tennis program to prospects."
The Lasting Effect
"As a coach, I want to improve the program each year so students enjoy their time at BW getting a great, quality education and playing tennis," said Bethlenfalvy. "Regardless of our win-loss record, if students can look back and remember their time on the women's tennis team as some their best college memories, then our program is successful."