Hall Of Fame Focus: Mary DeLay
Nov. 10, 2008
On Friday, Nov. 14 the University of Washington will officially induct the 2008 Husky Hall of Fame class. Mary DeLay, who coached UW women's tennis from 1973 to 1983 and is credited with starting the intercollegiate program, recently talked with GoHuskies.com.
For information on tickets for the Husky Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 pm, please call 206.685.3739.
What are your thoughts on being selected for the Husky Hall of Fame?
Mary DeLay: 'It's humbling to be honored that way. It's really a tribute to the athletes that I had the privilege of coaching while I was there. When I started coach at the UW it was just the start of Title IX. I never knew anything of the hall of fame -- I still didn't until a few years ago. It's just a tremendous honor and totally unexpected. It's humbling to be there with a lot of great people.
What was your initial reaction when you found out you were going into the Hall of Fame?
MD: 'Shock. I knew I had been nominated and I thought that was just a huge honor. And then, I just never expected it, so I was just overwhelmed by that. It is a huge honor.'
What are you most looking forward to in going into the Husky Hall of Fame?
MD: 'I've never been to a Hall of Fame event, so just being a part of the whole thing.
Have you followed the Washington tennis program since you left?
MD: 'I go to some of the matches and take some of my grand kids, so they can see -- I take them to other events too -- that level of sport. I also follow the results in the newspaper a lot.'
What do you see as some of the main changes that have helped the pioneering of the sport for women since you left?
MD: 'The main thing is that they have an indoor facility [Nordstrom Tennis Center]. That's huge. We didn't have that. Also, they have full-time coaches that are paid, along with an assistant coach. There is more money, travel, extensive schedules and recruiting. There is a more of a recognized part of the athletic department and with more support there is more attention to the results they're getting.'
How did you get the job at the UW back in 1973?
MD: 'I had a friend that had coached the year before and [women's tennis] wasn't really run out of the athletic department yet at that time. It was run out of the Kinesiology Department. She did the job for a year and I think she got sick, so they were looking for somebody and I heard about it so I decided I would go apply. I don't know, maybe they didn't have a lot of applicants, but I ended up with the position!'
What was the job like when you first took it?
MD: 'It was part-time paid. I turned it into more of a full-time effort so we could move into a Division I-type of program. It was very un-evolved. The tennis players did have a season. It was spring only. They played among northwest schools. There was a Pac-8 Conference that just a few players could go to compete in the conference championships.
'There was not really any money to support the players. And the coaching was done a lot of times just from people that had a background in physical education and not necessarily in tennis, but they did the best they could. That was just a part of the way women's sports was pre-Title IX. It was consistent with all the schools in the northwest.'
How did you recruit players back then?
MD: 'I didn't travel to recruit. They came to me. Tennis players by nature are really good students and the University of Washington was such a good university that we attracted a lot of good students that happened to be tennis players. So, we had a lot of really good in-state players -- maybe a couple out of state -- that came to the university.
'We dominated the northwest so the reputation of the tennis program and the strength of the team started attracting people in and out of the state.
'Because I was there for 10 years, I was able to develop the program and put some input into it so it matched more of what the men had in terms of having six singles and three doubles -- the model that exists today. We didn't start out with that at all.
'For the women, there weren't that many matches, they couldn't play both singles and doubles. I had a vision to expand the program so that it would be like the top programs outside the northwest. With the support of the local tennis community and with the support of tennis coaches from outside, we did shape the team into a real competitive program.'
With so many challenges, why do you think you were so successful at the UW?
MD: 'I had a lot of really good players so they didn't seem like challenges at the time. It was just the way it was. It wasn't like we were coming from something else and we knew something else.
'I attracted good players and they responded well to what was required. [Arizona] coaches were very free in answering questions and inviting us to play in some of the competitions they had in the early spring and winter. We were able to raise our level of play by competing against tougher people and preparing for that.
'When you think about how well you do, you look back on it. It becomes a historical perspective. You just set out to try to offer something to show these young athletes that you believe that they can become a better player and not put limitations on them just because there haven't been any expectations in the past. In terms of requirements to turnout regularly, to practice regularly, to instill some kind of discipline -- most of the players responded very, very well. They got to play -- even knowing it's an individual sport -- in a team basis, which they're not able to do on the junior level. Now they're around a team that they play for and they can support one another. You know, it was an interesting time and it was a fun time.'
What is going on in your life now?
MD: 'I still coach athletes to have better performance, endurance and recovery time. I also help people feel and look better and lose excess pounds. I still compete in tennis tournaments around the country and I go on travel adventures with my grand children.'