2019 Middle States Hall of Fame
Leading Through Sportsmanship
Leading Through Sportsmanship
Shari Bucklin-Webber frequently talks to her players about dedication, sportsmanship and teamwork. Perhaps as well as anyone else, she also practices what she preaches.
As a player, coach and mentor, Bucklin-Webber has been a tennis leader and pioneer for more than three decades. Most publicly known as a collegiate tennis coach, her on-court accomplishments span pages. But her impact on tennis goes beyond coaching. She is also a standout player and sportswoman — something that has helped her better connect with the hundreds of players she’s reached over the years.
Currently coaching the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Kutztown University, Bucklin-Webber has the experience and attitude that makes her popular amongst her players. Players, fellow coaches and even opponents say her sportsmanship leaves a mark on nearly everyone she comes into contact with. ADVERTISEMENT One of her assistant coaches references the times that Bucklin-Webber has called foot faults on her own players, just to set examples.
“Winning and being a winner aren’t always the same thing,” Bucklin-Webber said. “I use that saying a lot.”
Sportsmanship runs deep with Bucklin-Webber, as it’s something she learned at a young age, when she began playing the game on the courts with her parents.
“They used to take me and my younger brother to the club when they would go play,” she said of her parents. “Little did I know what that would lead to.”
Bucklin-Webber grew up in Ohio and had played sports like basketball and softball on a regular basis. But tennis stuck with Bucklin-Webber in a way the other sports didn’t, even when the game didn’t come easily.
“Tennis was probably the hardest sport for me,” she said. “I couldn’t figure it out, and I lost a lot.”
As she has so many other times in her career, though, Bucklin-Webber fought through it and learned how to play with a great attitude. She continued to play and improve, and she learned the value of sportsmanship.
Bucklin-Webber spent her early junior tennis days asking questions, and found people to play with whenever possible. Eventually she got better — something she credits to strong coaching and support along the way.
“I feel like I learn every time that I’m out on the court,” she said. “Even if I’m watching, I’m learning something. I think that always intrigued me.”
“Plus, I’m a little stubborn,” she added with a laugh.
Once she caught on and became more comfortable in competition, Bucklin-Webber improved quickly. She went from losing a lot to winning a whole lot more. Her success led to a scholarship at Marshall University, where she starred on the team and served as captain. There, she began to craft her outlook on tennis and what it can teach each player competing.
The Marshall experience was about more than playing. Her college coaching experience began just a year after graduating, when she took over as the Marshall University head coach. Over the years she moved onto stints at the University of Notre Dame, Albright College and Kutztown University.
Coaching gave Bucklin-Webber the excitement and the ability to positively influence others, while providing flexibility to spend time with family and be there for them when she was needed. She moved quickly up the coaching ladder and soon found herself as one of the more recognizable names in the college game.
In Bucklin-Webber’s career, she’s been recognized with a long list of awards to match her outstanding accomplishments. Perhaps most impressive of them all, she has the distinction of being the first woman to be named PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) Men’s Coach of the Year.
“I’m not comfortable with a lot of that type of attention, but that was really rewarding,” she said about the Men’s Coach of the Year award. “I had so many guys who worked so hard. I do remember some people would congratulate me and it felt awkward. I felt like it was the team’s success, not mine. Unfortunately I’m the one who got the award, but I feel it was more a reflection of their hard work as a team.”
Wins, losses and awards aren’t the things that stand out most for Bucklin-Webber, though. She mentions seeing the success of her players off the court as a major motivator for her, day-to-day.
“That’s one of my favorite parts of college coaching,” she said. “I want them to have the balance of academics, athletics and social life. What I stress the most is, ‘Yeah, we're going to work really hard on the tennis court for this segment of time.’ But we are also going to have other opportunities off the court for success, because it makes each a more well-rounded person.”
Often that means student government, sororities and fraternities, and off-campus jobs. If it helps build a more well-rounded student athlete, Bucklin-Webber is in.
“I want my players to feel like tennis has helped their college experience, not hindered it,” she said. “When they graduate, I want their resumes to be better than anyone else applying for a job.”
Between recruiting, coaching and family life, Bucklin-Webber’s schedule is stretched thin. Still, she continues to keep herself on court as much as possible.
She’s spent a large portion of her adult life competing in USTA Tournaments (local and national) and in USTA Intersectional play. In that time she’s won five USTA Gold Balls, most recently the National Grass Court Doubles Championship in 2017.
I’ve met so many people through playing,” she said. “Little did I know when I first moved here how much I would depend on my tennis network. I just couldn't have imagined how much tennis would change my life.”
When looking back on her career, Bucklin-Webber says she’ll remember her own time on the court, but will especially remember the players she’s coached, and the impact that they’ve made on her life.
“I’ve been very proud of my players throughout the years,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody who didn’t learn or progress in their years throughout the program. Everybody comes at different stages but as long as they progress, that’s what’s important.”