Piece written by Erin Dunne, UD Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

One of Delaware’s most decorated former student-athletes to walk onto the tennis courts is set to add to her long list of honors as women’s tennis head coach Laura LeRoy Travis prepares to be inducted into the USTA Middle States Hall of Fame this Friday evening.

“I am so flattered and honored by this recognition,” exclaimed Travis.  “It just blows my mind.  It is so surreal to be inducted into a Hall of Fame that has tennis legends like Billie Jean King and so many others.  I was just a little girl from Wilmington, Delaware and now I am receiving this award.”

Yet, with this statement, the coach and legendary player does not give herself nearly enough credit.

In her nearly 30 years with the Blue Hens, Travis has set player, coach and philanthropy standards that have earned her credibility as one of Delaware’s most valuable people to ever grace the courts at UD.

Since she first began playing tennis at the age of 10 through lessons with her mother, Travis has been a standout tennis player.  She captured her first tournament at the age of 11 and hasn’t stopped succeeding.

Travis remarks that “The ability to earn your win, to analyze your opponents and convince yourself you can beat them” is what makes her fond of the game.

She carried her skills to her high school team, where she was an All-State Player for Wilmington’s prestigious Tower Hill School.

Ironically enough, Travis claims she originally had no interest in attending college until she found out she could major in physical education. Eventually she decided upon playing tennis at the University of Delaware, which would later lead to coaching.

It was no doubt a great decision for Travis, as her records as an athlete here have placed her into the most elite of alumni and gained her an abundance of honors.

During her playing tenure at Delaware from 1985 to 1989, Travis served as team MVP for four straight years and set school records for singles wins in a season (22) and career (73), along with doubles team wins in a career (26 with partner Christie Ellis). Those records have since been broken, but by Travis’ Blue Hens protégés.

These kinds of achievements earned a spot for her into the Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, where she is one of only three other tennis players among those inducted.

As for her favorite part of Delaware tennis during her playing years, Travis claims it was the first day of try-outs because it was nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time.

She says playing tennis is about “putting yourself on the line, not being sure if you can do it, but doing it anyway. You get stronger and you are able to do it.”

As for serving as a University of Delaware tennis legend, Travis playfully remarks, “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just did it.”

Not only this, the UD standout athlete was noteworthy on a national level, claiming multiple awards in her conference. Travis represented Delaware as a four-time East Coast Conference singles and doubles champion in addition to leading her team to ECC titles in both 1987 and 1988 and earning herself the title of the ECC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in her senior year.

Also selected as a CoSIDA/GTE District II All-Academic second team selection, Travis went on to pursue a career in professional tennis, but ultimately got injured and made the decision to return to her home state where she quickly moved her legendary tennis skills to a different view of the court as a coach.

Having served as the women’s tennis head coach for the past 23 years, and the men’s tennis head coach for 22 years prior to handing the reigns over to Chris Hincker this summer, Travis has certainly left her imprint on Delaware tennis forever and will continue to add to this effort in the years to come.

In her experience as a Delaware coach, Travis has brought much success to both of the teams, which also results in the reception of multiple coaching awards. As the first woman to coach the men’s team, she led the Blue Hens to a conference title for just the second time in school history when UD captured the 1997 America East crown.

As the men’s coach, she was also selected as America East Men’s coach of the year twice, proving her value to not only Delaware standards, but the conference standards as well.  Under Travis’ reign, the UD men had a 21-year record of 217-179.

On the women’s side, she has coached the UD women to a 22-year record of 257-133. In the midst of these seasons, they also set three records for total wins in season. Not only this, the 1997-1998 team set Delaware women’s history by claiming the program’s longest winning streak.

Travis’ knack for coaching the women’s team also earned her the league’s Coach of the Year award in 1995, 1996 and 2000, which demonstrates the recognizable impact she made on the squad as a whole in her tenure as coach. Her successful time as a player has certainly swung over into her career as a coach, hitting school records and noteworthy awards.

However to Travis, tennis is not all about the glamour of awards and historic playing skills, it’s about the love of the game. Travis pushes her players, knowing how to gain respect, but also knowing when to discern the time for fun.

She speaks about coaching saying, “The best moments of coaching at UD have been the moments when I can hear the women giggling and having a great time,” showing her belief that teamwork, though tennis, is a seemingly singular game.

Travis also mentions that a great moment as coach is when the players had practiced something and then they perform it in a match, showing their hard work paying off.

Her players speak nothing but praise about her, with senior Abby Martinez stating, “She is never going to get mad at you and you have nothing to fear. She relaxes you so you don’t have to feel nervous.”

Travis instills the same values she holds in her own life in her players, with Martinez remarking, “She knows when business is business, she reminds us that we are a team, but also competition. She has a mental toughness,” which reflects Travis to be an inspiration to her players and other coaches striving to make an impact on their players.

It is comments like these that reflect how remarkable of not only a player and coach, but also a person Travis is, especially when it comes to making an impact on the tennis community around her.

Her love of tennis is apparent in the awards she has received and the way she has influenced not only her players, but also the community around her. 

Off the courts, her team as a whole has been noted in an NCAA APR Academic Recognition Award and for taking part in a volunteer program called Tennis in the Street, which shares the support of the at-risk youth of Wilmington. She has won the national award from USTA /ITA for Campus Recreation for her many contributions on campus, which include involvement in the Club Tennis team and the UDA Tennis Program Pathway, both of which give playing opportunities to groups of people who would otherwise not have this opportunity.

Travis also served as President on the USTA Board of Directors for a number of years.

Reflecting upon her many great experiences in tennis, Travis states, “Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.”

Clearly good things have happened in this player, coach and philanthropist’s career, which will be summed up by her next award: an induction into the USTA Middle States Hall of Fame this Friday evening.

According to USTA representatives Marge McCann and Michael Gladysz, the criteria that is viewed when selecting the next Hall of Famer includes someone who has made an impact on the district for which they have played or coached, a player who has had great achievements in the district, or a noteworthy coach or volunteer in the community.

All of these categories include Travis in some way, proving her credibility as an outstanding candidate for an honor like this.

“Laura has an outstanding record as player, coach, and has been instrumental in programs in USTA,” McGann remarks. “Her capacity as a volunteer is her contribution to our section.” 

The USTA views Travis as an example for all tennis players, through her career as player and coach. This award culminates the rich history and wild success of Travis as a multi-inspiration athlete, coach, and person.

It’s safe to say that as Travis continues her success as a coach for Delaware and for years to come, she will not doubt come out swinging.