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A mentor and friend to all

Jim Brockhoff in 2007 became the second Division I head tennis coach to win 1,000 matches

In Memoriam: Jim Brockhoff | By Kaitlyn Zinn

I still get goose bumps when I remember exactly how I felt.

Jim Brockhoff died May 30, 2013 at age 78.

As a shy but determined freshman, I was hot, tired and extremely nervous. My team, Xavier, and our opponents from George Washington had been battling for more than two hours and were tied up, 3-3. It all came down to me. The pressure was in the air; not only because this was the deciding match, but also because this would be coach Jim Brockhoff’s 1,000th win. 

You would have never guessed that from looking at him. He acted like he didn’t even know that he was about to make history. He pretended not to notice the posters, balloons and T-shirts that the team was starting to slyly pull out. He was completely focused on me. He hobbled over during the changeover at 4-3 and plopped down on the bench next to me.

I expected some kind of intense breakdown of my opponent or maybe some expert coaching advice. Instead all he said was, “Kaitlyn, my dear, we’re going to win this.” The key word there was “we’re.” The pressure was no longer on me but on us, because he was going to be right there fighting this battle with me. Instant confidence came over me, and I knew that was exactly the expert coaching advice that I needed.   

The winning began for Brockhoff during his playing days at Xavier. A three-year letterman in both tennis and football, he set the Xavier all-time record for highest winning percentage, a mark of 92 percent (46-4) over 50 matches. His success continued through the past decade as he led the women’s team to a program-best 21 wins in 2004, and the men’s team to its first appearance in the Atlantic 10 championship match in 2007.

Brockhoff took two men’s players to the 1971 NCAA championships in singles and doubles. He also led the women’s team to four appearances in conference championship matches, twice in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference and twice in the Atlantic 10. Brockhoff was honored as the MCC Coach of the Year in both 1991 and 1994. In addition to the berth in the 2007 Atlantic 10 championship match, Brockhoff led the men’s team into the MCC championship match in 1989.

His coaching career was capped off in the match I described. On March 30, 2007, he became the second Division I head coach to win 1,000 matches. Brockhoff, whose final record stands at 1,006-576 (.636), has been inducted into the Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame, the Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association Hall of Fame, the Hamilton County Sports Hall of Fame, the Purcell Marian High School Hall of Fame and Summit Country Day Hall of Fame. In 2004, he and his wife were honored by former players with the establishment of the Jim and Mary Brockhoff Tennis Scholarship at Xavier.

What made him different was that he also took pride in developing us as people. He encouraged us to work hard, stay after class and develop relationships with our professors to improve our grades. Instead of traveling around the country to see only the inside of tennis facilities, he took us to sightsee and experience the cities that we were visiting.

You would think that after coaching for decades and mentoring hundreds of players, they would start to blend together. But even as he aged, coach Brockhoff was interested in the lives of every player. He knew not only my extended family and friends’ names, but also what they did for a living, where they went to school and what they were interested in.

We used to joke about how he knew someone everywhere. Now I realize that throughout his life it was not coach Brockhoff gravitating toward so many people, but those people gravitating toward him.

I think all his former players would agree that it was an honor to have known, played for and been a part of coach Brockhoff’s life.

Kaitlyn Zinn was a standout tennis player at Xavier University during the 2007-10 seasons.