300 wins, even more memories for Bronson

We had a bowling unit in our high school gym class, which basically consisted of us lumbering into a bus, driving 15 minutes to the bowling alley, playing for 20 minutes, and taking 15 more to get back to school. It was a complete waste of time, and usually most of us didn’t even get to play a full game.

I am an average bowler. Sometimes I can break 150. But on one particular gym class, I became the Rain Man of the lanes. Somehow, I threw six strikes in a row and scored a freak 221. I have never come close to that since. My gym teacher, an old, unintentionally hilarious lady, was so overcome by my athletic prowess that she personally announced the score during morning announcements to the entire school the next day. It was extremely embarrassing, and totally pointless. “Way to be 80 pins short of a perfect game,” my friends told me. And they were right. My game was nowhere near …

Three hundred. A mark truly deserving of recognition and praise. A mark that most people spend an entire career chasing and never reach. Well last week, someone on the Marquette campus did get to 300. But not on the bowling alley. On the tennis court.

Just over a week and a half ago, after a 6-1 victory over Illinois-Chicago, women’s tennis coach Jody Bronson became the first coach with 300 wins in Marquette history. In any sport. Ever. That’s more wins than the legendary Al McGuire, who posted 295. That’s more than Tom Crean (190 at Marquette). That’s more than both of them combined. Wait, no it isn’t. But it’s still an extremely impressive number.

But Bronson is taking the whole achievement in stride. There’s no parades being planned. To her, it isn’t really a big deal. As usual, her focus is team-oriented, and she is quick to pass the credit.

“(After we won), I thought, ‘we’re 1-0,’” Bronson said after the record-setting victory. “Numbers have never meant a lot to me. … I mean, it is an honor. But that honor goes to all those athletes that played on the Marquette tennis teams all those years and put in the hard work. It’s definitely the players.”

Bronson is in her 25th year at the helm of the program, and in that time she has coached a lifetime of young women. And it is those lifelong relationships she has furnished, and teaching them to be successful is, above all else, why she has been here for so long.

“For me to see these kids grow as people as they go through Marquette and stay in touch with them even after they leave is really the reason why I coach. It’s just a very rewarding job that way.”

Senior Maggie Wilson has gone through more than three years of Bronson’s tutelage now, and it has definitely changed her for the better.

“Over the years, she’s made me very mentally tough. I was willing to work hard, but she redefined work ethic for me,” Wilson said. “Working hard doesn’t mean just running as fast as you can. You need to be mentally sharp in making your decisions.”

And while coach is reluctant to admit it, Wilson is quick to point out how special 300 wins really is.

“She really does put her heart in her work,” she said. “She’s been at Marquette for so long, you could tell it really meant a lot to her and it was a huge accomplishment. She doesn’t really speak about her own accomplishments, so it was nice to see her get recognized like this.”

Three hundred wins and a lifetime of memories. I asked coach whether she had another 300 wins in her and she just laughed. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. She has already established herself as a true icon of Marquette athletics. And one day, after she has passed the torch on, student-athletes will probably be returning volleys on Bronson Courts at Helfaer Tennis Stadium. And it will be rightly deserved.