Spring Arbor University Athletic Director Ryan Cottingham announced on Jan. 27 that David Darling, a former NAIA All-American selection for the Cougars, has been named the Director of Men’s and Women’s Tennis at SAU.
“We are thrilled and honored to welcome David back to the SAU community,” said Cottingham. “He was an outstanding student-athlete during his four years at Spring Arbor as he embodied and embraced the mission of our athletic department and the university.”
Darling, the son of current head men’s tennis coach Terry Darling, was one of the most decorated players in Cougar history. He was recognized as a four-time All-Crossroads League performer and a four-time National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) All-American. Darling led SAU to back-to-back conference titles his junior and senior seasons, and helped guide the team to a national runner-up finish at the 2012 NCCAA National Championship.
Darling also helped lead Spring Arbor to its only two appearances at the NAIA Men’s Tennis National Championship in program history in 2012 and 2013. In his final season with the Cougars, he garnered NAIA All-American Second Team honors after posting a 26-2 singles record. Darling finished his outstanding career as the winningest player in program history and also owned a program record 25-match winning streak.
“My family has a long-standing connection to and love for Spring Arbor University, and my wife and I are so privileged to be a part of that.” stated Darling. “I am excited to work alongside my dad, not only to continue doing great things with our tennis program, but to walk with our student-athletes as they grow in their relationships with each other and with Jesus Christ.”
Darling spent six years working at the Jackson Country Club, including three as the head tennis professional. In August of 2013, he became varsity boys head tennis coach at Lumen Christi High School where he directed the team to a regional championship and an appearance in the state tournament.
For the past three years, Darling has been a highly successful tennis teaching professional at Dunwoody Country Club in Georgia, where he has conducted lessons with people of all ages and ability levels. Last January, he was invited to become a member of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Professional Tennis Association.
“David has already proven to be an exceptional teacher of the game, and is highly respected throughout the country in the tennis community,” added Cottingham. “He will build on the strong tradition of SAU tennis established by Coach (Charles) Carey and Coach Darling. Like his predecessors, David will be a transformational coach that will impact lives for the Kingdom.”
After serving as the women’s tennis head coach for the past four seasons, Bobby Pratt decided to step away from the position to focus on his role as the university’s Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Housing and Student Programs. Darling will take over the coaching duties for the women’s team while also overseeing the men’s program. Terry Darling, now in his 36th year at the helm of the men’s team, will continue to serve in his current capacity.
“I am more than excited to have my son return to SAU,” commented Terry Darling. “But, I am also excited about the timing of his return. With our state-of-the-art tennis facility, I think our tennis program can thrive under his leadership. He has been a highly successful tennis teaching professional for the past three years in Atlanta, honing his skills as a tennis teacher, so for him to be able to come back to SAU is a true blessing.”
Spring Arbor celebrated a major milestone for the tennis program this fall when it opened the brand new Jones Tennis Complex. The facility features four pods of two courts for a total of eight courts constructed of post-tensioned concrete. To see more of the Jones Tennis Complex visit jonestenniscomplex.arbor.edu.
Darling is married to Jenna Darling, who is also an SAU graduate and former member of the women’s tennis team. Darling’s official start date is June 1, 2017.
Terry Darling has been the men's tennis head coach since 1980. A graduate of Spring Arbor University in 1978, Darling was also a member of the men's tennis team for four years while an undergraduate.
Darling has won many coaching awards over the years, including the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) Coach of the Year in 1997 and 1999, and Mid-Central Conference (MCC) Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2011. He also received NAIA Region VIII Coach of the Year honors in 2007 and ITA East Region Coach of the Year in 2012. He has led his teams to numerous national tournaments, twice placing third in the NCCAA national event and finishing as the runner-up in 2012. Just so he won't forget what it is like to be a player, Darling continues to play in tournament competition.
In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Darling has a doctorate in counseling psychology and has been chair of the psychology department at Spring Arbor University for over 15 years. Because of his training in psychology, he focuses on helping SAU players develop their mental game along with their physical skills.
Darling and his wife, Mary, have two sons, David and Michael, both graduates of SAU. David earned his degree in 2013 while Michael graduated in 2015.
Todd Dobben has been the men's tennis assistant coach since 1994. Prior to that, he was the head boy's coach at Northwest High School.
Dobben played No. 1 singles for four years at Ashland University. Since that time he has won various tournaments, including a USTA mixed doubles national championship in 1992. He is also a former instructor at the Jackson Athletic Club. Most recently, Dobben has begun hosting the best grass court tournament in the midwest every summer at his home in Jackson, Michigan.
Dobben currently works at the Dobben Agency in Jackson, Michigan. He and his wife, Meghan, have two sons, Sam and Charlie.