Head coach Cris James enters his fourth season at Illinois State as the reigning MVC Coach of the Year after leading the Redbirds to their first regular-season conference title since 2006. James took over the head coaching position prior to the 2007-08 season, and has already established a winning mentality both on the court and in the classroom.
James brings a wealth of tennis experience as a player, coach and instructor at the junior, collegiate and professional levels to Illinois State's men's tennis program. Hard work, dedication and passion have helped James excel, both as a player and coach. This work ethic has allowed James to bring a wealth of young talent to ISU. Four players who were named all-conference selections last season were all recruited by coach James.
At a young age, James spent most of his time with his father, who worked as a tennis coach. Achieving success early in his career, James won a junior national championship. The Canadian native enrolled at Purdue in 1995. As a four-year letterwinner for the Boilermakers, James was an All-Big Ten selection, Academic All-Big Ten honoree and the team's most valuable player in each of his last three seasons. In addition, James served as team captain and achieved an NCAA ranking of No. 26 in singles and No. 7 in doubles. James graduated from Purdue in 1999, with a degree in political science.
Following his outstanding career at Purdue, James entered the pro circuit. James won three ATP doubles tournaments and earned professional rankings in both singles and doubles, despite enduring several injuries that cut his professional career short.
While competing on the pro circuit, James was employed by the University of Alberta Tennis Center. He began working there in 1996 as a college student and had the opportunity to teach camps, programs and private lessons for all levels, including elite junior players. In the summer of 2002, James worked as the head professional at the Riverbend Tennis Club, in Alberta, Canada. He gained valuable experience in marketing club events, scheduling and organizing, as well as conducting programs, leagues and tournaments. As an assistant coach at Purdue, James played a key role in developing players. While coaching at Purdue, James earned his master's degree in sport management. In just his third season at Illinois State, Coach James delivered ISU's first regular-season conference title since 2006 and received MVC Coach of the Year honors. The Redbirds compiled an overall record of 15-8 including a 6-1 mark in conference play. Under the guidance of James, senior Timon Reichelt was named MVC Co-Player of the Year.
James has two central philosophies when it comes to the Redbird tennis program:
Improve yourself daily
Balance a passion for tennis with academic excellence and social experience
James expects his players to work hard, both on-and-off the court. He emphasizes each player should commit to improving themselves each and every day.
"Part of my job is to help develop good people, not just good athletes," said James. "I try to help them prepare for the next step in their lives."
His two central philosophies help shape the positive and dedicated attitudes of the Redbird student-athletes.