After countless years patrolling tennis courts, watching multitudes of high school and college players, including his own three daughters, Bob Modesto is taking his extensive expertise to another level.
An instructor in recent years at the just-closed Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City, the Chesterton resident was named the women's coach at Valparaiso University on Friday.
"I'm so excited," Modesto said. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It's a dream come true. I've always wanted to coach at the Division I level and now I get to do it in a great conference like the Missouri Valley."
The Cusaders position opened after Tammy Cecchini resigned when her husband Dave moved on from VU, where he was football coach, to take the same job at Lehigh.
"When it finally became offficial that she was leaving, I reached out to them and expressed my interest," Modesto said. "One of the questions they had in the interview was, why didn't you apply before? My answer was, the time was never right. The timing is perfect now. (Tennis) is in my blood. I'm competitive and this is a way for me to stay in the competition."
Modesto is certainly familiar with Valpo’s program. His youngest daughter Meg played for the Crusaders for the last four seasons and graduated in May. His other daughters were also D-I in tennis, Bobbi playing at IUPUI and Maureen at Missouri, and Bob believes his experience with their recruiting processes will serve him well in that capacity.
"It's probably one of the few times they've been as excited as I am," Modesto said. "What I remember the most is all three girls were in tears the day they made the decision to choose a college that offered a scholarship. They were on the phone on each separate occasion and each time, I didn't know if something was wrong and something was great."
With plenty of fertile tennis soil in close proximity to VU, Modesto plans to cover a radius including Indianapolis, Chicago and Detroit, all while keeping tabs on the talent close to home in the Region.
"I really have the attitude that I'll go wherever I need to go," he said. "We'll hit (those areas) pretty heavily. They're all pretty good hotbeds for junior tennis. We'll also take a look at international players and players coming out of junior college."
Valpo returns three players from a 3-18 team, has signed three and still has roster openings for next season. Modesto had worked privately with Jelena Vujavic the 2018 MVC singles champion who went 12-2 in an injury shortened 2019 season before she transferred to Louisville.
"I'm eager to speak with and work with them," Modesto said. "Long term, I hope to compete for a conference championship. Short term, I want to make sure that if we're not a top team, we're a team that when you play them, you know it's going to be a battle. Valparaiso's a great campus, a great community where you can feel very safe, get a great education and it's in proximity to Chicago."
Modesto began teaching tennis in 1993 as at Match Point Tennis Club in Griffith, where he was the Director of Tennis. He coached Homewood-Flossmoor to seven consecutive boys tennis state appearances and led the girls team at Munster to five straight trips to the state finals from 2004-2009, including a third-place finish in 2009, when Mary Hill became the first female singles player from Northwest Indiana to win a state title. Modesto coached high school student-athletes who went on to play at Bradley, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Bowling Green and Missouri.
In recent years, Modesto has served as the Director of Tennis at the NAC. With the club's closing he has funneled his students to VU "now that it's officially my home." He was also managing a hotel, which he is giving up to focus on his new job.
“We are thrilled to have an individual of coach Modesto’s caliber take over our women’s tennis program,” Valparaiso University Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera said in a media release. “His ties to Northwest Indiana and his familiarity with our program will be instrumental in our success in women’s tennis moving forward. Coach Modesto’s enthusiasm, energy and experience level all helped make him a great fit for this role."