Balancing work life and home life an hour and fifteen minutes apart

Men’s and Women’s tennis head coach Tom Gillman reflects on coaching in Eau Claire, living in the Twin Cities

Balancing work life and home life an hour and fifteen minutes apart

Story by Meghan Hosely, Online Editor

For the past fifteen years, whenever the men’s and women’s tennis teams are in season, head coach Tom Gillman makes the one hour, 15 minute commute to Eau Claire about five or six times a week to see his team.

The head coach, in his 15th season with the men’s team, and his eighth with the women’s, has never lived in Eau Claire. Rather, he resides on the other side of the Mississippi River in Red Wing (Minn.).

Before coming to Eau Claire, Gillman said he was a high school tennis coach, and a “former alumnus of Eau Claire,” told him the job was opening up to coach at the collegiate level. Gillman said he was initially hired for both positions, but after three years, stepped down from the women’s position to go back to Red Wing to coach at the high school level.

“I left to go back to Red Wing to coach my daughters,” he said. “I coached three years with the women, and then I left … and then I came back. I’ve been back for about five years now.”

For Gillman, coaching both the men’s and women’s teams are his jobs. In Minnesota, he said his wife owns a business, which has kept their roots planted in the area instead of moving into Wisconsin.

Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher said Gillman isn’t the only head coach who isn’t employed otherwise by the university. Although some head coaches are professors, or work on “other duties” in the university, a few balance other jobs on top of their coaching commitments.

Schumacher said the way he employs coaches who aren’t employed by UW-Eau Claire is by posting job openings, whenever they happen, on the NCAA website. By doing this, he said, it gathers national attention.

Otherwise, the director of athletics said every sport has a specific organization coaches belong to, and a job board accompanies the organization’s website.


While the overall expectation of producing a winning season isn’t wavered whether or not a coach is a full-time employee of the university versus a part-time employee, Schumacher said he is more lenient on things such as staff meetings.

“It’s hard to meet sometimes, because part-time head coaches have other jobs,” Schumacher said. “We can’t just ask someone to leave their job during the day for a staff meeting, so we try to have them early in the mornings or at night. But sometimes that doesn’t even work.”

Gillman said the main reason he coaches at Eau Claire is his passion for helping people. He said he can be happy coaching the sport anywhere, but coaching at the collegiate level poses a different kind of challenge to him than coaching at a high school.

When he was in his younger coaching days, he said he always wanted to “slay the dragon,” and produce wins. But as he’s gotten older, he’s found that while the wins still matter, his number one drive is helping the athletes develop into better people.

“I think the lasting value … for anything a person can do is to help others,” he said. “I think that’s the greatest thing you can achieve.”