Former Herd tennis player calls Huntington home

More stories from By Kasey Madden

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Women’s Tennis team at Marshall in 1977.

From the small town of Pineville in southern West Virginia, Roberta Ferguson started playing tennis at Marshall University in 1974, unaware she would still call Huntington home 41 years later.

Ferguson played singles and doubles tennis from fall 1974 to spring 1978.

Her highest seed achieved in singles was second her senior year and was seeded lower in doubles.

“I was a fairly strong player, but I certainly was not great,” Ferguson said.

During her tennis years, Marshall women’s athletics competed in an independent West Virginia conference, playing only schools from the state in the fall season.

Ferguson said for the postseason the teams played a state tournament, sending the winner to the Midwest Regional tournament in the spring.

Marshall played in the regional tournament twice while Ferguson was on the team, facing Big Ten schools like Ohio State University and Indiana University.

“We really got clobbered, but it was a lot of fun and we felt really good about beating WVU, because they were our strongest opponent,” Ferguson said.

When I would go out on the tennis court and warm-up with my opponent, I decided right then if I was going to win or if I was going to lose.”

— Roberta Ferguson

Through her tennis career at Marshall, Ferguson said she learned a lot about life from the competition.

“Attitude is everything,” Ferguson said. “When I would go out on the tennis court and warm-up with my opponent, I decided right then if I was going to win or if I was going to lose, based on who appeared to be the strongest in the warm-up. I never won a match that I thought I was going to lose and I never lost I match that I thought I was going to win.”

Ferguson’s advice on competition applies to those on and off the tennis court.

“Go out and compete. Don’t make up your mind ahead of time that you’re a failure,” Ferguson said.

The tennis team’s record was 29-13 while Ferguson played, with a 10-1 season in 1976. Regardless, she said she learned more from losing than winning.

“If you win, you just go off and celebrate and you don’t really replay the match in your mind or look at where you made your mistakes, and if you lose, you do,” Ferguson said. “You tend to analyze it more so that you can win the next time.”

The end of Ferguson’s tennis career was just the beginning of her actual career at Marshall.

Ferguson graduated in the spring of 1978 and started working on a grant in the College of Education in 1979.

Since 1979, Ferguson has only spent one year working away from Marshall and has been on staff for 33 years.

Ferguson has been faithful to Marshall for many decades and this service has not gone unnoticed.

In November, Ferguson was honored as Marshall University’s M Club member of the year. According to its website, the M Club is a combination of those who have participated in Marshall Athletics and seek to bring them together.

“Athletics, I’m a big believer,” Ferguson said. “I think it makes you a lot stronger as a person and it helps you prepare for competition in life.”

Ferguson now works in the registrar’s office at Marshall and works closely with the athletic department by reviewing team rosters, checking GPAs of student athletes, and making sure students are academically eligible for competition.

Her perspective on athletics and competition provides advice for those on the court or in the classroom.

“You’ve got to play the game. You can’t decide before it starts whether you’re going to win or lose,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson is one of many former Marshall athletes employed by the university. Others include Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, faculty member Brian Morgan, Director of Printing Services John Winters and Executive Director School of Medicine Alumni Association Linda Holmes.

Kasey Madden can be contacted at [email protected] edu.