Coach swings from tractor to tennis

Coach swings from tractor to tennis

By Demario Smith-Phipps

Saluki Spotlight

Farm life can be demanding. At an early age, women’s tennis coach Audra Nothwehr was introduced to not only horticulture, zoology and ecology, but also tennis.

Nothwehr was born in a small southwest Iowa town called Clarinda. It had a population of fewer than 5,000, and there were only five sports scattered throughout the town, she said.


“If you were a top player, you got to practice and play on the single tennis court. If you weren’t a top player, you had to practice on the basketball courts,” Nothwehr said.

Her family owned and operated a small farm in Clarinda, which she said was a much different start for her than most tennis players have.

“We were 30 minutes away from the nearest court and at least an hour away from the closest indoor court,” she said.

Nothwehr said she became interested in tennis when her brother started to play the sport.

“I went to practice with him a few times, and I really got into it,” she said. “Soon I started staying with my grandma to be closer to the city so I could go to my lessons.”

Growing up, Nothwehr said she watched professional tennis players such as Andre Agassi, and she modeled her game after him. She was gifted at a variety of sports, but she said tennis and volleyball were her passion.

Tennis allowed her to shine as an individual, and volleyball offered her an opportunity to participate in team-oriented competition. Volleyball was especially important to her at a young age, she said, because she loved “team togetherness.”


“I used what I learned in volleyball, and I was able to apply that to life and to my teams that I coached,” Nothwehr said. “Although tennis is played by individuals, we are still a team at the end of the day.”

Freshman Abigail Plecki said she thinks of the team as part of her family.

“So many times during the season she has reminded us that we are more than just tennis players; We are a tennis team, and we are family,” Plecki said.

Nothwehr played both volleyball and tennis at Concordia College in Seward, Neb. While there, she was the No. 1 singles and doubles player in tennis. Her junior year, Nothwehr won conference in singles, according to Saluki athletics.

Nothwehr said her college volleyball coach Diane Mendenhall helped shape her as a player and a person. Mendenhall showed her how to use volleyball concepts to improve in other aspects. She was very strict, Nothwehr said, but even when a player fell short of expectations, they were bettered for it.

Nothwehr found work after college as a coach at Lindsay Wilson College in Kentucky. She had job opportunities at other places, but she said she turned them down because she would only be hired as either a volleyball or a tennis coach. LWC employed her to act as both.

She said it is difficult being a dual coach, especially after just graduating college.

“I was so close to some of my players’ age that I worried about how they would respond to that, but they respected me because of my skill and experience,” she said.

Nothwehr had three practices to attend every day: one with the volleyball team, and one with both the men’s and women’s tennis teams.

“I was young and full of energy,” she said. “It’s what I wanted to do, and I was up for the challenge.”

In her first year at LWC, the men’s team was 17-4 and the women were 11-7.