Steve Francour’s domain inside Alexander Gymnasium is all business.
The office of the Lawrence University men’s and women’s tennis coach has a white board filled with practice and recruiting notes, cases of tennis balls and a contraption for stringing racquets.
In that atmosphere, Francour places an imaginative and inventive take on his job with the Vikings.
“I think of playing tennis as kind of being an artist,” Francour said. “My job is to add skill sets to what you are trying to do. If you want to add a different color or a different medium, I can help you do that. I donâ€™t make it black and white.Â Iâ€™m guiding you through a way to play.”
Deep in the heart of his first year coaching both teams, Francour is using more than two decades of collegiate coaching experience to begin shaping Lawrence’s teams. He will take the men’s team to Florida for a week of competition following final exams this week.
“I look at players as having their own unique skill set. Especially in tennis, you canâ€™t make someone something theyâ€™re not,” Francour said. “You have a skill set. We have to make it the best it can be. If we have to add to that skill set or add tools to make you better, we will do that.”
Francour, who coached at UW-Oshkosh for 23 years before coming to Lawrence in 2013, can’t help but smile when he talks about his current teams. The Vikings have made the new coach feel right at home, Francour said.
“The tennis part has been easy,” Francour said. “The kids have been great. They have helped me with some things.Â Overall, I think the transition has been good.”
Francour’s greatest challenge involves recruiting the type of student-athlete that will be successful on and off the court at Lawrence. He said that student is different from the type of student he spent the last two decades recruiting.
“I’m understanding the type of kid thatâ€™s going to come to Lawrence. Iâ€™m getting the feel on recruiting,” said Francour, adding that he has been wowed by the deep affection people have for Lawrence.
“Iâ€™m very impressed with how if youâ€™re a Lawrence graduate, you really have a tie-in with what the university did for you. SeveralÂ people that I didnâ€™t know were Lawrence graduates just couldnâ€™t speak highly enough of the university. They tell you that without bring prompted. There’s a realÂ fondness for having gone through the experience, being a graduate of Lawrence and seeing how itâ€™s changed peopleâ€™s lives.”
Francour also now believes in love at first sight, thanks to Lawrence.
“A young lady that Iâ€™m recruiting came for a visit. She applied and fell in love with the place on a visit,” Francour said. “I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever had someone tell me that before.”
Francour will lose three players from this year’s women’s team to graduation, and men’s player Jeremy Andereck also is a senior on a small men’s team. Recruiting is priority one to rebuild both teams.
“Weâ€™re starting from scratch. Youâ€™re building your own house instead of buying one,” Francour said.
“I think this is a place where we can compete for conference championships. I have no doubt that we can get the athletes in that are necessary.Â Tennis players tend to be very strong students that will gravitate towards Lawrence.Â We will provide them with an excellent education and an opportunity to compete.Â My goals are to win conference championships, get to the national tournament and see where it goes from there.”