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What’s always been impressive to me having been in athletics all these seasons is the remarkable personalities we have throughout the department. Often they are people I come in contact with every day, but haven’t really gotten behind the face.
Dean Clower, Wyoming’s highly-successful tennis coach, is such a personality.
Yes, he has directed the Cowgirl program to new frontiers, and made it a legitimate Mountain West contender year in and year out.
He’s won more matches than any other Cowgirl tennis coach in history, and is the all-time leader in conference wins with a .743 winning percentage.
He’s a highly respected member of the International Tennis Association’s (ITA) Operating Committee, one of just 16 coaches in the country serving with that body.
He’s created a support group for his program like no other in collegiate tennis.
He is a great dad and husband for his wife Amanda Clower (a Cowgirl assistant track coach) and his two lovely children (daughter Riley and son Westyn).
Baseball was his first love, and he pitched his Broken Arrow (Oklahoma) team to a one-hit shutout win over Guam in the Little League World Series.
Oh, and by the way, he battles daily with multiple sclerosis, the disease that affects muscle control, which he and his doctors have been able to control since he found out he had it in 2006.
Clower is one of those individuals you instantly like. He always gives you the sense he knows exactly where he’s going. He is a straight-shooter and a guy who’s enjoyable to be around.
The Broken Arrow native has a really good idea where his Wyoming tennis program is going. “I’m a firm believer in the process,” Clower says of his program. “I like how we are moving forward. I have a great staff (associate head coach Maciej Bogusz and assistant Ewa Szatkowska), and we are steamrolling forward.”
That Cowgirl steamroller had quite a 2017 spring season, going undefeated at home in the Indoor Tennis Center (10-0), and winning more matches (18) than any team in school history, before losing in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament to host UNLV.
“My vision for Wyoming is to be a national contender, a top 25 program,” says Clower. “We know it will take time to get there, but we believe we can get there. The first step is to win a conference championship. It can be done here.”
Clower actually didn’t care for tennis all that much early on. “I thought I’d be a baseball player,” he says. “But one summer changed that. I was being ornery and my report card wasn’t good, so I got grounded by my dad (Dean, Sr., known as Big Dean) who was the tennis director at a club in Broken Arrow. Not only did I clean the courts and all kinds of other ugly stuff, but dad scheduled me to play tennis with every new member, and all the old guys. I was in the seventh or eighth grade and that’s where I really began loving to compete and playing the game of tennis. I really got into it.”
He actually won Oklahoma’s state middle school championship as an eighth grader and his tennis path was set.
He says it was also during middle school that he knew he was going to be a coach. “My grandpa (Van) was a football coach, my dad also coached basketball and my mom (Elizabeth) coached basketball and tennis. It was in the genes.”
Clower is very open about his MS. “At first I didn’t want anyone to know,” he says. “But I think the more people know the better, that you can lead a good life with it. I have some tough days, I get tired and I have some vision issues in my right eye, but life is good. It’s something I have to deal with. Heck, just about everybody has something.”
He has become a mentor to those individuals who are diagnosed with MS. “I want to be there for them, and help them understand that they can lead productive lives even though they have it.”
One of the keys to Clower’s success at Wyoming is his world-wide recruiting. The Cowgirl roster reads like the United Nations. “We want to bring in ‘blue collar’ kids. I know people have the impression that all tennis players are ‘country club’ kids. Not true. Take Dorka (his nickname for senior Dorottya Jonas who is from Gyal, Hungary), for instance. Where she lived in Hungary she would have to catch a train every day for an hour-and-a-half ride to get to school. Then she would take another train to practice after school, and finally the train home. You don’t think she didn’t look at coming to Wyoming as a tremendous opportunity?
“When they get here, they put on the brown and gold and are extremely proud of it. They are Cowgirls and this is their home. Our recruiting has put us on the map. We are able to attract some outstanding tennis players and competitive young women we can win with.
“I love how they develop from that freshmen year to when they graduate. They are ready for life, and I believe tennis helps them get there.”
Early on, Clower knew that it was important to develop a tennis “community” in and around the Laramie area. He’s been highly-successful at that too. “It’s about building relationships with people,” he says. “The Wyoming tennis community is as good as any in the country. It really got going about four years ago, and has grown since. All of our fans love tennis, and they love the Cowgirls. We look at them as our extended family. We are never alone as a team thanks to that community, they are always there for us.
“The team absolutely loves it. When we play the ‘big schools’ our kids get a kick out of how much better our home crowds are. And, our community travels. At the conference tournament we played UNLV on its home courts, and we had a lot more fans there than they did.”
Every year the Cowgirls are among the best in the country in tennis attendance.
Nationally, Clower is well-respected too and his service on the ITA Operating Committee attests to that. The ITA is the governing body for collegiate tennis. It governs new legislation for the sport. “We vote on new legislation that goes to the NCAA for approval,” he says.
“We have a vested interest in helping college tennis grow,” he continues. “I think it’s important to our program for me to be a part of that committee. It keeps us on the cutting edge. We are the first to see what’s coming down the road. Streaming of our matches is a good example. We were one of the first to stream our matches. It is important for the sport in general and for us in particular especially in the area of recruiting.”
Clower is in the second of a three-year term on the committee. His sub-committee is charged with creating a formula for individual automatic qualifying during the fall season.
He and Amanda obviously have touched the lives of many Wyoming student-athletes through their time here, and love what they are doing. “Amanda and I have a great relationship, and I love being able to support her. Believe me, I’m the fan when she’s coaching, and she’s the fan when I’m coaching. It’s easy to respect each other’s job, and we certainly know where each other is coming from. We understand the ups and downs of what we do, and we try not to bring it home very often. We want to be dad and mom at home.”
They actually met while both were student-athletes at Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas). Dean was a nationally-ranked tennis player, and the New Zealand native Amanda (King), was one of the nation’s top cross country student-athletes. They were engaged while at Lamar, a guy from Broken Arrow, and a young lady from New Zealand.
Amanda doesn’t run anymore and Dean doesn’t play much tennis anymore. As parents and coaches they just don’t have time. “I think we both miss competing, that feeling right before you go out there. But I think we both transfer that feeling to our student-athletes. As a coach I think you can sense who has that fire and who doesn’t.
“We love being parents, we love coaching, and we understand how lucky we are to be able to both coach on the collegiate level at such a great place. Laramie is a great place to raise our kids. The quality of life is terrific. It’s a very special place to us.”
Dean and Amanda Clower are very special to the University of Wyoming.