Alum Coaches His Way to Tennis Prominence

College of Health and Human Services

When it comes to the sport of tennis, Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Leo Vorwerk knows what he’s talking about.

Leo graduated from Southeast in 1975 with a master’s degree in athletic training and a minor in education.

He is currently co-director of tennis at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla.  San Jose Country Club has 1,200 Members, a staff of eight tennis professionals and 12 courts.

Before working at the San Jose Country Club, Leo was men and women’s head tennis coach at the University of North Florida (UNF).  In 1986, he coached the women’s tennis team to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship, the first national championship in any sport for UNF. He is also the first college tennis coach in the United States in any division to win the Intercollegiate Tennis Association/Wilson National College Coach of the Year Award for both women and men.  In 2008, Leo was inducted into the UNF Athletic Hall of Fame.

It’s not just Leo who enjoys tennis. In 2005, he along with his wife Linda and their three children were named Florida’s Tennis Family of the Year by the United States Tennis Association for their contributions to tennis in Florida.

“I am just thankful I have been able to wake up every morning of my working life enjoying what I do,” says Leo.

He says of his time at Southeast, “The Department of Athletics, especially Marvin Rosengarten, and the physical education department, especially Doris Hamer, and their staffs were always supportive, encouraging, and most importantly, gave me the space to grow and the opportunity to work to be successful. John Bierk was also a great influence and mentor while I was at Southeast.

“Never be afraid to take a job or position with a program that is new or going through a down period,” advises Leo to future Southeast students.  “It is in these situations where I have found you can have your greatest successes. Try to be nice to everyone you come in contact with, learn everything you can from your peers and those above you and work as hard or harder than everyone else.”

When asked his favorite Southeast memory, Leo explains, “I was teaching a tennis class at Southeast when I met a young lady in my class, and we began to date.  We were not sure if that was permissible, so we dated on the sly so no one would find out. After the semester, we told everyone and the rest is history as Linda and I will celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary this summer.

“It is always great to get back to Cape, which we do about every year or two, to see the friends who made our time at Southeast so special,” he says.

Looking to the future, Leo says, “Professionally, the country club business is like many other businesses during a recession, and that means setting new goals to work through the economic downturn.  Personally, Linda and I look forward to more traveling as our children get older and more independent.  We especially love to get to England to visit our son who is an actor in London.”

In his spare time, Leo enjoys watching other sports besides tennis, especially baseball and football. 

“I’m a big St. Louis Cardinals fan as well as Jacksonville Jaguar and Iowa Hawkeye football fan,” he says.

Leo currently resides in Jacksonville, Fla.


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College of Health & Human Services
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