GopherSports: Tell us about your life after you left Minnesota. Fill us in on what we have missed in the last 18 years.
Jennie Coughlin: Did you really just say 18 years? I cannot be that old! Now that I've let that settle some...I went into public relations right out of college, working for a local PR firm. Soon after, I married the love of my life, Bob Coughlin, a former U of M football player. While working one afternoon, I received a call from a high school tennis coach who asked if I'd be willing to hit with one of his players to help her get ready for the state tournament. I met her on the court and was soon giving her some pointers. The bug for coaching was born. She and I continued to hit a few times a week and she was my first student. I realized how much I loved coaching and soon called Martin Novak, my old coach at the U, to see if he would have a position open for me. His assistant coach had just left and he offered me the position. I only had the privilege of coaching at the U for three years but I absolutely loved it! My three years came to an end when I had the greatest blessing of becoming a mom, which led to another, and another. Now, five kids later, born within seven years of each other, my life is full, busy, adventurous, and wonderful!
In addition to being a mom, I have the wonderful privilege of teaching God's Word in a Women's Bible Study at our church. I love the journey of digging into the Bible, learning more about God and His incredible love for us, and His plan of redemption for mankind. My life is full with family, dates with my husband, raising our children and spending quality and wonderful time together, especially up north at our cabin. I love to run and workout, to read, to grab coffee with a friend, and to continually try to grow as the woman God has created me to be.
GS: You played at Minnesota from 1989 to 1992. What were some of your most memorable moments during your tenure at Minnesota?
JC: I'd have to say the joy of a critical match and knowing that the team's win or loss was dependent on a certain match was definitely the most exciting. When we play such an individual sport like tennis, it is such a thrill to compete for the team. Then, of course, there are the memories of the typical places we would eat: Olive Garden (where we would consume more food than a football team), Subway (the smell of the place still brings back memories) and Denny's: the breakfast of champions. Travelling in general was special, especially the long talks on the planes, which would cause a crank in our necks from always looking one direction.
GS: You made us hungry now. Where was your favorite place to eat on campus during your career?
JC: For sure, Annie's. Now when I look back I can't believe I consumed what I did: their double-decker grilled cheese, fries with sour cream to dip them in and a chocolate malt. That was my place to eat during finals. My other favorite was Sgt. Preston's, near the law school.
GS: You racked up quite a few awards while playing tennis for the Gophers, including Most Valuable Athlete, Most Improved Player, selections to the All-Big Ten Team in singles and in doubles, as well as the Academic All-Big Ten team, certainly leaving your mark on the program's record books. Of which accolade or accolades are you most proud?
JC: I don't think about the awards, but more about the character that was developed along the way, the lessons learned, the habits that were established, the friendships, the challenges that were conquered, and the joy in all of it.
GS: Tell us about the first time you saw Baseline Tennis Center.
JC: I got choked up the first time I was there. I had the privilege of being there for the official opening ceremony of the facility. When I have the opportunity, I tell members of the team how incredible it is for them and how different and better their experience is because of an on-campus facility. I think it adds so much from a place to hang out, to availability to practice much more often, to a uniting spot for the men's and women's teams.
GS: Are you still involved in tennis?
JC: My only involvement is a chance to see the team play every once in awhile and then hitting with my own kids. I don't have any serious tennis players...yet. I did start hitting again a few weeks before the alumni match that took place last January. It was so fun to get back on the court and I hope to make a better habit of it.
GS: Do you follow the current Gopher tennis teams?
JC: I follow the women as much as I can. I am so impressed with the level of play but what I really love to see is their team unity. They seem to be real friends, not just teammates. That's so important, not just as a team, but for the overall experience of college.
GS: You had some success with Sofie Olsson in doubles play. Have you kept in touch with her or any of your Minnesota teammates?
JC: I wish I did. We kept in better touch right out of college, but when she moved back to Sweden, we lost touch.
GS: At Edina, you and your sister, Jackie, met twice in the Class AA state title match (with each of you winning one). When is the last time you reignited that rivalry?
JC: Funny you should ask. Jackie is the one I dragged back out onto the court to help me get in gear for the alumni match. I hadn't picked up a racket in years, not because I don't love to play, but because life had taken me down a different path with kids. It's funny playing now, though. It's such a habit to get on the court and train for an upcoming match or tournament. So, to step on the court with no vision of that before me- to play "just for fun"-has taken some getting used to. I think I'm just too intense! But my sister and I had so much fun playing. We said we would carve it out in our schedules and make it happen. That's our goal this fall. As for reigniting the rivalry, never do we step on the court without some sort of rivalry!
GS: You are still a Minnesota native. Do you make it out to any Gopher sporting events? If so, what are your favorite events to attend?
JC: Since my husband played football and my three boys play, we make every football game we can. We also love to go to the basketball games and I try to bring my girls to a couple tennis matches. We plan to get out for more of the women's events this year, like basketball and volleyball. It's so fun to share that with our kids, to show them the place where we played, and let them experience a little of what we did.