If sports were puzzle pieces, Dave Alden has tried to fit almost all of them. But one of the last ones he tried, tennis, was the piece that finally fit.
Washburn men’s and women’s tennis head coach Dave Alden grew up around athletics. With a dad that was a semi-professional baseball player at one point on the east coast, Alden played football, basketball, baseball, track and even swimming. But tennis came later on and was an interest off the start.
“It was something I wasn’t exposed to until early in junior high and I liked it and I had an affinity for it,” said Alden. “I just kept playing and working at it and realized that people weren’t jumpin’ on you and you weren’t getting hit. So I just took that through and that was it.”
From that point on, tennis became his pursuit. Eventually, this led him to a scholarship to play at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., but when he arrived, the tennis program was cut. After transferring to Colorado State after one semester at Fort Lewis, Alden had knee surgery. Colorado State then cut its program as well.
This led him toward coaching when his former high school tennis coach from Poudre High School in Fort Collins contacted him about being an assistant coach. After this job, he then became an assistant pro at the Fort Collins Country Club where his high school tennis coach was the head professional before moving to an indoor facility as a full-time tennis pro. He then received his United States Professional Tennis Association teaching certification.
From that point forward, Alden held a variety of occupations, including organizing a tennis academy in Washington, D.C. He eventually moved back to Denver to coach at Metro State for five years. Three of those years he was the assistant athletic director after he finished his bachelor’s degree in sports industry during the first two years coaching.
After being an assistant athletic director at the biggest school in Division II, Alden now enjoys being able to focus on tennis at Washburn.
“Going through the process of trying to wear so many hats, I realized the hat I liked the most was coaching. And so, the nice thing, well there’s a lot of things I like about this job here, but one of the best parts is getting to focus on just being a coach,” said Alden.
Before even coming to Washburn, he’d been to Washburn and other MIAA schools because Metro State often played them. When he was given the opportunity for the coaching position, not only looking at how much he liked Washburn as a school and how much he respected the athletic department, Alden was also excited for the move from Denver to Topeka.
“A lot of people have questioned my sanity saying ‘Why would you move from Denver to Topeka?’ and my answer to that is that Denver is a great place to visit but it’s a challenge to live there, with how much traffic and how busy it is. I love it here,” said Alden. “I’d rather live here and raise my family here than I ever would in Denver.”
After two years at Washburn, Alden will get to really begin recruiting. With all of his men’s team leaving, he’ll have to get to work building a new team.
“We get to wipe the slate clean. I’ve been very fortunate to have good players. I mean, I’ve had a couple of new guys I’ve helped bring in, but next year I’ll have at least six new guys. I’ll get to start the direction,” he said. “There will be no preconceived notions about what should or should not be here and I’m equally as excited about next year as the team I have this year, but for very different reasons.”
Down the line, he made sure to express that Washburn was a school he’s very proud of and that he thinks is doing all the right things, so that he will stay involved after no longer being the coach. But, he made sure to express that won’t be soon.
“I definitely want to stay involved. But, I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon,” said Alden. “That’s a conversation best left for hopefully decades to come.”