Rock Chalk Weekly: A Man Among Many Women
Written by Katy Lonergan, Kansas Director of Football Communications
February 14, 2015. Valentine’s Day. Kansas women’s tennis was hosting its first home match of the year. The Jayhawks are young so the lineup was featuring four freshmen in both singles and doubles play. On top of that, KU was facing the then-49th-rated Houston Cougars.
Anytime a roster is so young, one would expect the normal ups and downs that come with inexperience. The match against the nationally-ranked Cougars provided an opportunity to show growth and the young Jayhawks matured that day.
Kansas got on the board first against the Cougars after an exhausting doubles match on court two. Kansas’ freshmen duo of Madison Harrison and Smith Hinton were able to squeak by their Houston counterparts, 7-6, in a tie-break victory that solidified a 1-0 lead for the Jayhawks.
In singles play Kansas was trailing, 3-2, when Hinton knotted the score after a grueling win on court four. Hinton raced out to an easy, 6-1, win in the first set, before dropping the second set, 3-6, to Houston’s Tina Rupert. The UH athlete took a 4-2 lead in the third and final set, before Hinton battled back for a 7-5 win.
As Hinton wrapped up her match on court four, fellow freshman Summer Collins was down 6-1, 3-1 on court six to UH’s Maria Cardenas. Upon hearing the news that the match was going to be decided on her court, Collins stepped up the challenge and came storming back.
Collins won five of the next six games to take the second set, 6-4. She did not stop there as she went up 5-1 over Cardenas in the third set. However, momentum quickly swung back in Cardenas’ favor as she won four-straight games to tie Collins at 5-5. The KU rookie was not going to be denied as she regained her composure and closed out the set and match, 7-5.
For Jayhawk head coach Todd Chapman, it was a long, grueling afternoon of work, but boy was it exciting to see the fruits of his labor paying off with his young Kansas players. He could not wait to celebrate with his family. Following the big win, Chapman headed home—but it would be quite some time before he could share his big win with his loved ones.
You see, Chapman is the father of five daughters: Lauren (19), Madison (17), Katelyn (15), Avary (10) and Karsen (7). Throw in the family cats and dog, and he is completely outnumbered, 8-2, when it comes to testosterone.
So he raced home from coaching his Jayhawks to their best match of the season only to find deaf ears. Valentine’s Day in 2015 was also the date of the Lawrence High School winter formal, so no one in the Chapman house was focused on anything but preparing for that event.
“After we finished the match, I get home and there are 20 high school girls at our house with their parents and we have to take pictures and do all of these things,” said Chapman, with a smile on his face. “It was probably an hour or so before anyone even asked if we won. That was definitely a moment where I realized my life as a coach is much different than most. In my house it was all about the formal and Valentine’s Day. No one cared that we just had the best win of our season and how it occurred. They just wanted my extra set of hands to take pictures of them in their fancy dresses.”
And so it goes for Chapman. He has his six ladies at home and then there is his team of Jayhawks. He did not plan it this way, but he is just fine with almost always being the lone male in his female-dominated world.
Chapman grew up the son of a high school basketball coach. He soaked up the atmosphere and had an idea he also wanted to pursue a career in athletics, but early on he wasn’t exactly sure what it would be.
“I knew I wanted to do something in sports,” said Chapman of his career ambitions. “Early in college I thought I wanted to go into sports management, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be in an athletic department or with a professional team. By my senior year in college I knew I wanted to be a coach.
“I figured out I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I wanted to be active and do something outside. I wasn’t sure I wanted to coach college tennis. I did that for four years and then worked as a high school coach for six years before I got back into the college side.”
As Chapman progressed in his career, he coached both men and women and then boys and girls, before eventually settling on college women’s tennis. Early on, coaching only women seemed like the least likely scenario for him, but as his career has evolved he has found it is truly his niche.
“My first two jobs were with both men and women’s teams,” said Chapman. “And then my high school teams were both boys and girls. In the beginning I would have told you that if I ever focused on one, 100 percent the answer would have been men, but after my last stint of coaching high school tennis something changed where I really enjoyed coaching the girls on the team. They were so coachable and I built a really good bond with them so when the opportunity came to coach at Texas Tech, it was very easy to decide to make that move.”
As Chapman was making his coaching moves, he and his wife, Amy, were also adding to their family. Much like his coaching progression, the end result was a team full of females. Instead of seeing the negative side of being the only male around the house, Chapman has turned being the father of five daughters into an asset in his coaching world and vice versa.
“I definitely relate better with my older three daughters because of coaching high school and college females,” said Chapman. “This is what I boil it down to; when you coach guys they want to know how much you know and how are you going to help them win. They don’t care about anything else. When coaching women, they want to know you care about them and once you establish that bond, then everything else is secondary. I am not saying you don’t have to create a bond when coaching guys, but it is secondary. With women you tend to get the best out of them if they know you care about them. Being around them all of the time, there is so much more than tennis that they are focused on and that affects them on a daily basis. I have learned that on both sides, from my girls at home and from the girls on my team. Learning that and embracing that has made me a better father and a better coach.”
Jayhawk senior Maria Belen Luduena can see daily how Chapman having five daughters and a wife at home makes him a better coach.
“Coach Chapman uses examples from home a lot,” said Luduena. “For him, living with six females, he knows how to deal with certain situations. When we are mad or sad he knows just how to treat us. Having all of his girls at home helps him know how to talk to us and that helps us be better tennis players.”
Amy Chapman has seen her husband’s coaching and parenting skills evolve together. She has seen up close how it has helped him have a close bond with their five daughters.
“Even when he was coaching girls and boys it helped having him coach girls and having girls at home,” said Amy. “It helped him balance emotions. Girls are much more emotional and dramatic. He learned how to deal with that on both sides very quickly. It helped him adapt as a parent faster because he was coaching and around young women. Now that our daughters are growing up and in their teens, they do relate very well to him and I attribute it to him having coached players their age. He is much calmer than I am.”
Additionally, Chapman sees the many advantages of having daughters at home when it comes to being a better recruiter, which he considers to be the lifeline of his program.
“For recruiting purposes having three daughters in high school who are the same ages as the players I am recruiting–It has affected how I recruit drastically,” said Chapman. “I am not a coach who wears recruits out on a daily basis because I see every day what my daughters have going on. They would be so turned off. There is no time in their lives, between school and their social activities and their sports, to be hounded by coaches. Out of respect for the girls’ time I am recruiting, I think about that completely differently than how I used to.”
As much as his daughters have helped him advance his recruiting efforts, Chapman’s Jayhawk players have lent a hand in him being more in tune with his family. They have bolstered his growing appreciation for social media and his awareness to what is going on in young girls’ lives these days, as he witnesses it daily through them.
“My daughters aren’t far off the age of my players,” said Chapman. “Sometimes I hear conversations my players are having about things going on, so I am definitely not naïve to the teenage world. My oldest daughter just turned 19, so she is as old or older than most of the players on our team. I definitely have a feel for what is to going on. I see it as an advantage that I am definitely not naïve at home and I am also not naïve when it comes to the players on my team.”
It is not always easy to maneuver the female-dominated world of Todd Chapman, but the benefits of having young daughters and coaching young women are not lost on him. Even on a day the Jayhawks might suffer a tough loss on the court, the advantages are obvious to KU’s second-year head coach.
“Over the years, my players have at times built relationships with my daughters,” said Chapman of his worlds coinciding. “My youngest two, for sure, because they look up to the players so much. After we play, my youngest two (Avary and Karsen) get out and stretch with the team. My 10-year old, Avary, just loves it. She looks up to them and thinks they are her best friends and that always puts a smile on my face.”
For Avary Chapman having a father who coaches college women’s tennis is very exciting.
“It is really fun after they play to be able to go out and stretch with the players and congratulate them and tell them how well they played,” said Avary. “In a few years I will be going to college and l like tennis, so it’s cool to get to hang out with college tennis players now and learn from them.”
Chapman’s daughters aren’t the only ones who benefit from the closeness of his family and team.
“Coach Chapman’s family is always here for our matches and are always supporting us,” said Luduena. “They are part of our family. We are just one big family!”
Despite being outnumbered, and occasionally on an island of sorts, at the end of the day Chapman is always thankful for how his family helps him be a better coach and his team helps him be a better father.
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