Matt Sexton thought his coaching career was over after the 2013 season.
Following his ninth year as girls tennis coach at his alma mater, Blanchester High School, Sexton decided to return to Northern Kentucky University and obtain his bachelor’s degree in journalism.
After a one-year hiatus, and at the request of a parent, Sexton went back to Blanchester to lead the tennis program again in 2015.
Seven seasons later, Sexton is again stepping away from tennis to rush the net on another career.
“Broadcasting is one of the many things I do outside my full-time job,” Sexton wrote in his resignation letter to the administration at Blanchester. “I have been blessed to work for Northern Kentucky University for the last five years. I have also started picking up assignments at the University of Cincinnati. The reality is I’ve had to say ‘no’ to some of those opportunities due to my coaching responsibilities. It is time for me to try to chase that dream before I’m too old to do so.”
Sexton’s coaching numbers are impressive. In 16 seasons, he won 151 of 247 matches, including a 98-35 mark in SBAAC National Division matches. Blanchester won 11 National Division titles with Sexton earning 11 National Division coach of the year honors.
He also garnered a Greater Cincinnati Tennis Coaches Association coach of the year award in 2020 and was a GCTCA Distinguished Coach honoree three times.
As with most successful coaches, Sexton knows his name is penciled next to the aforementioned titles and awards only because of the help he’s had along the way.
“I couldn’t imagine having coached without (brother Mike Sexton),” said Matt, who played one year of tennis at BHS with his younger brother. “I truly believe the program wouldn’t have had the same success without him. Mark Baughman was probably the most influential (coach). He really helped me understand how to teach the game. Dan Slocum was a big influence as well. Even though they don’t coach tennis, Jamey Grogg and Butch Whitaker helped me tremendously with how to coach people and learning how to be a better person as a coach.
“Then there were the tennis coaches I’ve learned from over the years — Tim Drew at Seven Hills, Mike Teets at Sycamore, Russ King at St. Xavier, Steve Tapogna at Colerain. And two from SBC schools — Amber Kelley at Batavia and Liz Benjamin at CNE. Batavia was our big rival with my early title teams and CNE in the later years. They’re both amazing people and great coaches and I’ll miss coaching against them.”
Because of its so-called “country club” status in many areas, tennis is a sport made up of many players who get year-round, one-on-one coaching. The vast majority of kids who’ve played tennis at Blanchester are not part of the aforementioned group. For Sexton, that brings to mind a good-natured conversation he had with King, who was coach at Cincinnati St. Xavier for “like 50 years,” Sexton said.
”Sometimes I had to remind him that we were coaching in very different worlds,” said Sexton. “He would tell me about going to take a look at an eighth grader that was a five-star kid they were hoping to get to come to St. X. He would brag about how the kid could maybe come in and play first singles right off the bat. I would always look at him and tell him that right now, there is a kid sitting in a classroom in the eighth grade that has never even seen a tennis match. That kid would be my first singles player someday and they don’t even know it yet.”
Sexton said his career as tennis coach at BHS has included many good times off the court.
”I had a group come through that one of the parents would host game nights for the team,” he said. “The players would all hang out in one room playing the dumbest board games and the parents, coaches would hang out and play cards. But we’d also sing karaoke. Somewhere out there, there is video of me singing Mr. Roboto by Styx. That team was so much fun.”
As he focuses more on his broadcasting career, Sexton knows he put every ounce of himself into making the tennis program and its players better, at life as well as the game they loved.
“I’ll miss seeing a kid come into the program with zero tennis knowledge and leave an all-league performer and league champion,” he said. “I really think the kids have kept me young over the years. With no kids of my own, these players were probably as close as I’ll ever get to having kids. I worry about them. I want to know how school is going. I want to do what I can to help them succeed after high school. The messages I got on Facebook from former players and their parents were tough to read. You really don’t know what kind of impact you are having until you post that you’re leaving and the messages flood in. Each one was a true blessing.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports