Jeff NorthamWhitman’s men’s tennis team won the Northwest Conference Championship trophy for the sixth straight season under the leadership of six-time NWC coach of the year Jeff Northam ’88. What is the secret of his success?

“We have a great history of wonderful guys who have wanted to work hard,” Northam said, holding his racket despite sitting in an office chair, because, as he revealed, “I think better with a racket in my hand.”

Northam, who himself played tennis while an economics major at Whitman, has managed to build a powerhouse that regularly competes on the national level by fostering a family atmosphere among his players.

“We have unbelievable team chemistry. Guys feed off of each other. They compete for the team before they compete for themselves.”

Another key to the team’s success is Whitman’s tennis facilitates. Northam oversees the $1.2 million Walter A. Bratton Tennis Center, an indoor facility that opened in 1996. The four courts have a cushioned surface, and the temperature-controlled building includes locker rooms and a viewing area.

“Very few schools have indoor facilities of the caliber of Bratton,” Northam said. “With the exception of the universities of Washington, Utah and Notre Dame, I don’t know of any schools with facilities as good as ours.”

And the tennis facilities are set to become even more impressive, as the outdoor courts adjacent to Ankeny Field are under construction in summer 2013. The project, supported by generous donors, expands the number of courts from four to six and replaces the cracked, aging surfaces with state of the art courts.

“Our outdoor courts are in the heart of campus. That makes it a fun place to play, because anyone from campus can just walk over and watch our matches.”

To keep up with the men’s tennis team, read Jeff Northam’s blog at

Career highlights

  • Six consecutive NWC championships
  • Six NWC Coach of the Year awards
  • His team has a 102-match regular season win streak against NWC opponents.
  • Seven straight NCAA tourney appearances
  • 10 All-Americans since 2007
  • In 2012, the team was ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 1 in the West Region.