“I have been blessed, but I believe it’s time for me to finally move on,” said Coach John Peterson in a nearly empty office in the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center at Tyler Junior College on Friday.
Not only will he leave behind a legacy, but memories that will never fade from the minds and hearts of the people who knew him, explained Sun Wen, a former student and tennis champion in 2010.
“He helped me when I needed it most,” Wen said. I moved from China and he offered me a place to stay at his home until I was able to be placed in a dorm. He’s truly a wonderful and caring person as he is a great coach.”
Although Peterson feels it’s time for him to retire, he still doesn’t know how he will manage without his students and team. They were part of his life just as much as he was theirs.
“It will be a big adjustment for me to be perfectly honest,” Peterson said. “Not having that constant interaction with the team and them no longer depending on me for anything anymore. . . It’s going to be tough, but I believe it’s better to move on now than later. I just don’t like to be so-so at anything, and I believe I’m not as good of a coach as I was a few years ago. I didn’t want anyone to tell me it was time to go. I wanted to call my own shots at the height of my career.”
In Peterson’s absence, John-Paul Connell, currently the Assistant Tennis Coach will take on the task of Head Coach for the Apache men’s and women’s tennis teams. Connell has a solid background in tennis and he has also worked closely with Peterson and the teammates the past couple of years.
“Dash [Connell] has grown up in a great tennis environment with a great high school coach, playing a Texas A&M, here at TJC along with several major honors. I don’t believe I would be passing him the torch, because he’s carrying his
own,” Peterson said. “Of course his torch will be different, but he will be great and I know he will improve even more.”
Connell is ready to step into his role as Head Tennis Coach but he explained how much of an impression Peterson has left on him since they first started working together.
“For starters, Coach Peterson is such a well grounded individual for the amount of success he has had,” Connell said. “He also understands what it takes to be successful and the true meaning of what success is, which is ultimately some of the best knowledge I’ve gained from him.”
According to Connell, Peterson’s success isn’t just on the court, but in everyday life and in the type of person he is to the people he surrounds himself with. “The great thing about Coach Peterson is, he understands that in the long run the championships are not what’s always important,” Connell said. “He’s focused on the big picture, which is ultimately helping the team and his students reach their potential.”
Out of Peterson’s 24 seasons, he has helped change a lot of students’ lives, getting them on the right career track and into the right schools. He is known as a mentor and friend, who knows when to lend a hand, according to Brooke Dennis, a former tennis Championship player at TJC.
“Coach Peterson has inspired me in so many positive ways on and off the court,” Dennis said. “He’s one of the most amazing men I ever met and I feel that I’m extremely lucky to have played under his direction. I just feel so sad that he won’t be there for others to experience what I did. He makes you feel blessed and that you can do anything.”
Peterson is thankful to TJC for taking a chance on him and allowing him to have such a successful and fulfilling career.
He explained that he is grateful to have what many don’t and that working for the college was one of the best decisions he made for himself and for his family.
“This has been a great experience and it’s something I’ll never forget,” Peterson said. “However, I do intend on coming back and helping out with the tennis program some day, but for now, I’m just taking each day at a time. It’s the only way I know how to live.”