Fox Chapel resident receives tennis coaching recognition
During the past 38 years, the University of Pittsburgh football team has had 11 head coaches.
The tennis program has had one coach in place during that time frame.
Fox Chapel resident George Dieffenbach has been coaching the Panthers since 1975. He has spent time coaching the men (1975-95) and the women (1995-2012).
And he has been successful with both teams. So successful that it was recently announced that he was named the Edwin J. Faulkner College Coach of the Year by the United States Tennis Association.
“I found out a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “It came right out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting it.”
Based on what Dieffenbach has accomplished over the years, he should have been.
His record as a men's coach is 189-157. As coach of the women, he has compiled a 318-274 record. He has guided Pitt teams to 24 Big East Championship berths.
And those numbers will continue to climb, no doubt, until he decides to call it a career.
“It's still a lot of fun and I'm amazed that I'm still at Pitt after 38 years,” he said. “The average tenure of a college coach in tennis is 3.5 years. I've been blessed to have been at Pitt for so long.”
He has many fond memories of his time at Pitt, topped by getting the opportunity to coach a special player.
“One of the highlights for me has been being able to coach my daughter at Pitt,” he said. “Sarah was on the team from 2009-2011 and having her as one of my players will always hold a special place for me.
“Another highlight was being ranked seventh of 16 teams in the 2008 Big East Championships and pulling off an upset. Notre Dame was ranked fourth in the country and we beat them. That will always be a great memory.”
On the men's side, he also recalls a special team.
“In 1985, we went to Rhode Island for the Big East Championships with a team with no scholarship players,” he said. “We had all walk-ons. That was pretty much unheard of at the D-I level. It was a special team.”
Dieffenbach has noticed great change in the collegiate game since he first started coaching.
“The racquets have changed so much,” he said. “In 1975, everybody was using wood or steel.
“The racquets have gotten bigger since then.”
He also said there's more focus on academics today.
“The tennis players are well-conditioned, smart and motivated, more so than in the past. And they give more of themselves, not just in tennis but in all sports.
“Athletes used to just concentrate on academics and athletics. Now, they're involved in charities, visiting hospitals, helping the poor and the sick.”
He also said that today's collegiate tennis players are much more advanced on the court.
“They serve better, volley better and have more power,” Dieffenbach said. “The women hit the ball as hard as the men today.
“The coaches and teaching pros are much more sophisticated, too.”
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.