2016 SD Tennis Achievement Award
By Jeff Nelson
Doug’s introduction to competitive tennis
came when he was a student at Sioux Falls College (now
University of SF). Randy Stolpe, a varsity basketball teammate,
asked Doug to fill in on the tennis team for an injured player.
Doug remembers Randy telling him all he had to do was “get the
ball over the net.” That sounded easy enough to Doug, so he
welcomed the opportunity to play. The match ended quickly, and
despite being – in his own word -“destroyed,” he was intrigued
with the sport. He decided he would learn how to play.
A few months later, a man in his 50’s
challenged him in singles. That shouldn’t be too tough, he
thought. As you are probably guessing, that match, like his
first, was not pretty. Still, even after being “destroyed
again,” Doug was hooked on the game and sought ways to get more
involved in tennis.
Shortly after his move to Madison, SD in
1975, Doug reached out to Norm Johnson, the boys high school
tennis coach. Doug wanted to see what it would take to coach
tennis. Two years later, Doug succeeded Norm -- it was the
beginning of a four-decade long journey with the Bulldogs and
two different stretches with the Lady Bulldogs.
Halfway through Doug’s tenure as coach, he
set his sights on growing the game beyond the high school
program. In concert with the grass-roots initiative led by the
United State Tennis Association (USTA), he rallied a number of
local tennis enthusiasts to form a Community Tennis Association
(CTA). Soon after, he helped the CTA partner with the city,
school board and high school booster club to add four new courts
at the high school. The resulting 8-court complex was large
enough for tournament play, so Doug established the Madison
Tennis Tournament, which he directed for the next 10 years.
Next on the agenda was adding a summer Park & Recreation Tennis
Program and forming teams to participate in the National Junior
Tennis League (NJTL).
Madison was enjoying its own tennis boom.
The Madison CTA was a model for other smaller communities and
was named Tennis Town of the year in 1999 for the USTA’s
Northern Section. A year later, it was recognized as the
Northern Section Organization of the Year for achieving a level
of service to the community by which all member organizations
can strive to achieve.
Doug is quick to credit other leaders in
the community, like his longtime friend on and off the court,
Jerry Johnson. Together at the helm, they made tennis part of
the fabric of their community.
The growth of tennis in Madison, coupled
with Doug’s desire to perfect his craft by seeking out new
drills, stroke techniques, and best coaching practices, paid
dividends for the high school programs. The 2006 season was
special for Doug and the Bulldogs. The team’s 6th
place finish was its highest ever in the state tournament, and
Doug was given the SDHSAA Boy’s Tennis Coach of the Year Award.
Rarely was the award given to a coach whose team had not won the
tournament. Doug humbly credited his players for the success,
"It's because of this team's hard work and accomplishments that
I'm receiving this award. I'm very grateful that the other
coaches recognized how well our guys played."
In 2007, when the South Dakota High School
Activities Association (SDHSAA) introduced a new Team
Sportsmanship Award, it was only fitting that Doug’s Bulldogs
were the first recipients.
Photo: Coach Doug Sims with his
Madison Bulldogs team
The award was established “to promote
integrity and sportsmanship in the game of tennis…given to the
team which, through actions both on and off the court, has
demonstrated fairness, respect, honesty, unselfishness, and
responsibility.” Teaching and modeling these values was at the
core of Doug’s coaching philosophy; it was what he feels sports
should really be about. His teams were nominated every year
thereafter and repeated as honorees in 2014.
On behalf of the town of Madison, the
hundreds of players you coached and your extended tennis family
across South Dakota, thank you, Doug, for your many years of
selfless service and sharing your love of the game with us!