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Game, Set, Match for Ashland Icon

Carl Leedy retires after five-decade career

By Tony Rehagen

Two loves of Carl Leedy’s life have been tennis and the city of Ashland, Ohio. So it was understandably difficult when, this spring, he announced his retirement from a 50-year tennis coaching career, the last 15 at Ashland University, where he won 175 matches.

Leedy learned the game growing up on the clay courts of his hometown, simply enjoying the feel of a clean forehand that enabled him to play competitively, first at Ashland High School then for four years at Ashland University (then called Ashland College). From there, he got into coaching, becoming an assistant at the high school in 1966.

“I loved being around the game,” he says. “And I enjoyed the chance to help some kids be the best they could be.”

In 1971, he got the head position at Ashland High. In his 34 years there, he guided the Arrows to 655 wins and 19 conference championships. He returned to Ashland University in 2002 to lead the women’s program. The transition from high school to college coaching wasn’t seamless; there was more tedious administrative work behind the scenes. But the collegiate student-athletes were more skilled and dedicated to the sport. Plus, being a recruiter allowed Leedy to indulge his hometown pride.

 “I loved recruiting,” he says. “I loved the relationships with the kids and their parents. And I was so excited to see the kids come here.”

Retirement will pull him off the recruiting trail, but don’t expect it to keep him from the road. He says he and his wife plan to travel, including trips to Pennsylvania to visit their four grandchildren. But he’ll always return to Ashland, to run a civic summer tennis camp and sit in the stands at the university to watch the hometown program he helped build.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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