In order to thrive as a student athlete, one must seek excellence in all aspects of life, both on the court and off.
Perhaps no one realizes this better than WSU Women’s Tennis Head Coach Lisa Hart who successfully turned her competitive and academic career into a decade-long coaching tenure with the Cougars.
Hart first picked up a racket at around six or seven years old. She fell in love with the sport after her brother, Brian, let her tag along to play tennis.
Hart hit her stride at Sunnyside High School where she became a three-time State champion with All-American honors during her sophomore season.
She played tennis collegiately at Nebraska where she was the 1995 Big Eight Freshman of the Year, a two-time all-conference team selection, and ultimately became one of the school’s winningest women’s tennis players.
Her 74 career singles victories as a senior earned her No. 3 on the school’s career victories record board. She went on to win the Big 12 Conference’s No. 2 singles title.
In addition to her impressive playing statistics, she received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) Cissie Learie Sportsmanship Award for the Central Region and the Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award during her time at Nebraska.
Hart graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis in physical education and sports studies.
Hart knew that coaching tennis was precisely what she wanted to do to make the most of her experience and education.
“I love teaching and coaching involves a great deal of it,” she said. “Coaching allowed me to combine the best of both worlds in my love and passion for both the sport of tennis and teaching.”
Hart was also an exemplary student, earning academic all-conference selections three times and first-team academic All-Big 12 honors her senior year.
Leading by example, Hart makes sure her players realize their own academic potential and reach their on-court abilities.
In each of the last six seasons, the Cougars have received the ITA All-Academic team award.
“It’s a testament to their work ethic and how much time they put into their work both on the court and in academics,” said Hart. “They strive to not only win matches but to get top marks in the classroom. They’re really good kids.”
Having recorded 109 victories and trips to the NCAA Championships in 2008 and 2012, there’s no denying that Coach Hart has made a positive impact on the Cougar tennis program.
She said she enjoys her job every day and is motivated to shape her young women into great athletes and all-around people.
“I love coaching at the collegiate level because of the progress you can watch and help with. There is so much growing that happens when a young athlete comes in here at 18 and leaves when they’re 22 not only on the court but also in their lives,” Hart said.
Hart says she is really excited about and proud of this year’s squad and sees big things for WSU tennis both now and in the immediate future.
“We expect to make the Sweet 16 this year. We made the round of 32 last year so the team collectively wants to go at least one more step.”
Luckily for Cougar sports fans, Hart seems to be the perfect fit for WSU tennis and looks to be right at home here in Pullman, where she resides with her husband John, and two young children.
She has been revered for her dedication to the community during her time leading the Cougars including being a four-time recipient of the Community Service Award by the United States Tennis Association.
“I grew up in eastern Washington and absolutely love Pullman so I always wanted to get back to this area,"Hart said."To combine big-time athletics in the Pac-12 with a town like Pullman is quite frankly a dream job.”