Leigh Ann Grubbs, Notre Dame Prep
Pete Sexton, Tory Athens
Alex Stamm, Portland


Leigh Ann Grubbs, Notre Dame Prep

Growing up in North Canton OH, Lee Ann Grubbs was a gifted athlete at Hoover High School. She was captain of both the tennis and swim teams but her forte was definitely swimming. Although she was the No. 2 singles player, she graduated holding all but one of the school’s swim records.

That led to a swim, not tennis, career at Miami of Ohio where the team won the MAC Conference Championship each of her four years there. Her contributions ushered in an era when that team won seven consecutive league titles.

Although her two children entered and ended their Pontiac Notre Dame Prep years as superb athletes, neither played tennis. Nevertheless, that didn’t deter Leigh Ann from volunteering to help the tennis program. After all, she had been playing the game pretty much her entire life. She was and still is very much involved in USTA team tennis at as many as four clubs in the area. And yes, she can play. She has been to the USTA Nationals twice.

In other words, this experienced tennis player has stayed with Peter Riley’s program for a decade, even after her daughter, a ski racer and competitive dancer, graduated. “Coaching is my way of staying in touch with young people,” she says.

Peter, 2014 Girls Coach of the Year, is understandably grateful. “Leigh Ann is very knowledgeable about tennis technique and strategy,” he says. “During warmups for practices and matches, if she sees a flaw in one of the players, she immediately corrects it through demonstration and reinforcement. Her knowledge of the game has the boys and girls asking for help with lessons after practice and in the off-season. She also holds the players to being good sports. Bad sportsmanship will not be tolerated.”

This is a more-than-qualified volunteer who is able to instruct kids of all levels for Peter’s program. “Some of her beginners end up on the varsity the next year,” he says. “This past year, she took on the largest JV team as coach: 28 players. She is not afraid to take on tasks to help the program.”

She also plays an important role as surrogate mom. “She does many exercises that help the team to bond,” says Peter. “She knows that playing tennis can help the kids with situations off the court. From dealing with the stress of achieving good grades, learning how to be a good teammate, and developing the skills to help a kid become independent, she is available to them to listen and offer good advice.”

Being a head tennis coach isn’t easy these days but Leigh Ann has been a Godsend (his word) for Peter. “She is someone who I can vent my frustration,” he says. “She is a good friend who makes an increasingly difficult job an easier task.”

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Pete Sexton, Troy Athens

The stereotypical assistant tennis coach joins the program because a son or daughter is on the team and thus, doesn’t stay very long after graduation. But Pete Sexton has served the highly regarded Rochester Adams program, directed by Hall of Famer Al Must, for a quarter of a century.

Longevity must be the Adams coaching genes. Al, himself, has coached at the school for 32 years and for 26 of them, he has enjoyed the services of a dedicated, committed assistant coach. At Adams, the program enjoys a much-valued consistency in an era when volunteers come and go.

Pete grew up in Attica Township near Lapeer, not exactly a bastion of tennis excellence. “I was introduced to the sport by my best friend and his brother,” he says. “We would go out and hit the ball at nighttime. I got interested enough to try out for the team.”

“The team” was located in Lapeer which has been a center of tennis excellence for quite some time. Venerable coach Rod McEachern took his kids to the Class A state championship in 1971 under the old system and was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 1991. In other words, Pete wasn’t in Kansas -- ‘er, Attica Twp. --anymore.

He made the team and played all four years – 1979 - 1982. There were no great awards earned but he was hooked enough to play the game while in the Navy – 1983 -1988. Many don’t know that the military provides excellent opportunities to pursue the game in off hours (Ed Waits’s brother is an example) and even sends them to regional-type tournaments if players qualify. In Pete’s case, his wins got him an all-expenses four-day trip to Brunswick, Maine.

Pete came to Rochester with a degree in Christian ministry and counseling. From 1995 to 2012, he worked as an ordinance officer at Adams which brought him into contact with kids throughout each day. At present, he is a para professional in special education working with post high school students. In other words, he has been a known quantity in the school community for years.

As it turns out, he is also a known quality as well. In terms of getting the Adams assistant job, Pete simply says that “Al took a chance on me given my tennis experience.”  Not much of a risk as it turns out. What Al got was a USPTR certified professional as a helper.

Pete started working with the boys JV team in 1995 and added the girls JV job a bit later. These JV teams win more than they lose, a worthy accomplishment in that, as with the varsity, these kids play stiff competition in their neck of the woods.

“He is a huge asset during try-outs and lends a hand with administrative duties,” says Al. “He thoroughly enjoys working with the players and stays after to help with strokes and strategies. When JV players reach the varsity, many of them credit Pete for much of the improvement in their games. In addition, parents both respect and enjoy his presence both on and off the courts.

“I love working with players who still need fine tuning and don’t think they know all there is to know about tennis,” says Pete. He makes it clear that the goal is to prepare them for the varsity level. He also credits Al for “passing down” so many worthy experiences. He points to the legacy and tradition that the school holds in terms of tennis achievement.

Together, these two friends have made sure that the Adams boys and girls are well-coached at Saturday, conference, regional and state tournaments over the years. After all, both are professional counselors as well as skilled tennis players and experienced educators.

“I am honored to be so fortunate as to have had Pete work with me for so many years,” concludes Al.

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Alex Stamm, Portland

It didn’t take then-coach Jim Niebling long to conclude that his volunteer would make an excellent addition to his already accomplished staff (two Assistant Coach Award recipients, now a third). Alex Stamm came to him with “incredible people skills.”
For her part, all she had to do was mention to a fellow teacher that “I played high school tennis.” Jim overheard her comment, invited her to watch a match, and she was instantly hooked. Given the outcome, he calls it serendipity.

Actually her experience playing for Grand Blanc High School wasn’t all that great. She had taken lessons at Geneysis Racket Club (home of our Hall of Fame display) and came to the high school with a foundation sufficient to play JV tennis her first year. Her junior year found her winning plenty of matches at 2D and 3D but she found her passion in singles the next year, fulfilling all expectations at 4S before dropping the game. “I was done with tennis,” she says, referencing her coach as an example of how not to treat players.

Alex was hired straight out of college by the Portland Public Schools as an English teacher and yearbook advisor. Even though she had a foundation and a bit of a playing experience, she had zero experience as a coach of young boys and girls. Instead, she provided boundless enthusiasm and no fear of hard work.

According to Jim, Alex started at the bottom and worked her way up. She took on the menial tasks of running drills and administrative tasks. She volunteered at Portland’s extensive summer program. “I contributed in any way that I could” she says, “but I was learning from Jim just as much as I was coaching the team.” She also got to work with Nick Martin and Crystal Lowe who have received this award in previous years: 2011 and 2015, respectively.

When Alex began dating Cody Cross, a former Portland player (and brother of present-Portland coach Joel Cross) who was soon to graduate from Ferris State’s Professional Management Program, she accompanied him on his internships at various programs: three summers at Topnotch in Stowe Vermont and one summer at the VanderMeer Academy in Hilton Head SC.  Her personality got her jobs there which enabled her to learn even more about tennis teaching. Then when Cody got a job at MSU, they became a “package deal:” She was hired to teach classes there which led to working at the Nike summer camps at MSU.

The result is a young lady who is easily qualified to be a head coach. Jim calls her “accomplished and well-credentialed.” This is an assistant coach who was invited to serve on the MHSAA Tennis Committee in 2012 and 2013. “It was quite overwhelming as I was young, not very experienced, and in a room with some very knowledgeable coaches,” she says. “It was a great learning experience though.”

“I was at the meeting and even though she was young and in the room with some legends, including Teusink and Cummins, she spoke up in discussion and added her perspective to the topics,” says MHSTeCA Secretary-Treasurer Gary Ellis.

When Jim, the Portland Hall of Famer, decided to step down, Alex thought long and hard about taking over the program but instead opted to pursue a doctorate in MSU’s Educational Policy program to add to her BA in Education, Secondary Education, and Psychology (Albion College: 2010) and her MA in Teaching and Curriculum (MSU: 2015)

But she still helps out with the tennis program, just not full time. “The first fall after I left Portland HS (Fall 2018), I helped Joel, my now brother-in -law, with his transition to head coach,” she says. “I was pregnant during this time (with my first child who is now 8 months old), so I wasn’t as active as typical.” 

“Last spring, while very pregnant, I helped Crystal as much as I could by providing single practice plans throughout the season,” she continues. “I tried to run singles practice while off site and was helped out by a former player who ran the drills for me. I also helped her coach (or waddled around—hah) when the team was indoors at the beginning of the season.”

“Aside from giving me a love for tennis, coaching, and mentoring kids through sport, Portland Tennis gave me my husband,” she concludes. In return, she has certainly given back.

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