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2016 SD  Tennis Achievement Award

Doug Sims

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!