Like father, like daughter

Sophomore women’s tennis player Katie Gillman has been playing tennis since age eight. For much of that time, her dad has doubled as her coach.

“I’ve already been coached by him for five years,” Katie Gillman said, noting he was her tennis coach at Red Wing High School in Red Wing, Minn. “You build that bond with your coach, he’s been to every single tennis match I’ve ever had so he knows my game more than anyone else.”

Tom Gillman, coach of both the Blugold men’s and women’s tennis teams, has been coaching at Eau Claire since 2001. He said he was encouraging of Katie’s decision to attend the university and play for the women’s tennis team.

“It was among her final list of schools, it was a good fit for her academic goals and for her tennis-wise,” Tom Gillman said.

Tom Gillman said he and Katie get to spend more time together during tennis season even though she’s away at school. They work together at tennis practice and sometimes have dinner afterward.

“Just being able to spend time with Katie is the bonus for me,” Tom Gillman said. “And it’s probably helped her transition into college.”

Katie Gillman said it has. “I was never homesick my freshman year because I got to see my dad for practice.”

She grew up playing tennis with her dad as well as her older sister Lindsey, who also played tennis at the high school and college levels at UW-River Falls.

“We do play tennis together as a family, but mom does most of the watching,” Tom Gillman said, noting his wife does not share the same passion for tennis he and his daughters have.

Katie Gillman said her sister was actually the one to teach her a lot about tennis when she was little; her dad didn’t want to teach them until they were older so they wouldn’t get “burned out.”

“He wanted us to have fun and play tennis because we wanted to play, not because he was the coach,” she said.

Tom Gillman did begin teaching her about tennis when she was in sixth grade, and she started playing with the high school team as early as seventh grade. When Katie Gillman did get to high school, she attained the greatest number of wins in her high school’s girl’s tennis team’s history.

“He was really proud, it was a big deal,” she said of her dad’s reaction. “I ended my (high school) career with close to 130 wins.”

Now, at the college level, Katie Gillman said she doesn’t think about winning as much. “I just want to perform my best,” she said.

Coach Gillman said there’s no change in dynamic between he and Katie, whether he’s coaching her tennis team or they’re hanging out at home.

“It’s always been easy with Katie and I. We think a lot alike,” he said. “There’s really no difference the way we related to each other in high school, on the college team, or at home.”

While one of the members of the team he coaches is his daughter, Tom Gillman said he doesn’t hold her in a higher regard than any of the other girls.

“Certainly everyone on the team is really important to me and I want everyone to do well,” Tom Gillman said. “It doesn’t have any effect at all on how I coach the team, as far as me wanting the team to be successful.”

Katie Gillman said she feels similarly about her dad coaching her team.

“I love tennis because I love the sport, and it’s just an additional benefit that my dad has so much knowledge about that sport.”

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