(click on coach's name to read more about them)

GIRLS (Spring)
BOYS (Fall)
1 - Clarence Wynn, Detroit Cass Tech 1 - Tim Buck, Grandville
2 - Roger Cornelius, Richland Gull Lake 2 - Jim Slaughter, U of D Jesuit
3 - Rob Girvin, Armada

3 - Jim Jonas, Fowlerville

4 - Jim Niebling, Portland 4 - Chuck Pothoven, Holland Christian

GIRLS (Spring)
Clarence Wynn, Detroit Cass Tech - Division 1

                 In semi-retirement five years ago, Hall of Famer Fuzz Corey volunteered to help out Clarence Wynn and his Detroit Cass Tech girls. “I’d known Coach Wynn for several years before that, ever since Troy (where Fuzz previously coached) had been going to Grosse Pointe for our regional. I always wanted to help out a Detroit team at some point and knew him to be a good guy so I asked him if I could join him and he accepted me willingly.”
                “Accepted me” implies that the favor extended as much to Fuzz as to Mr. Wynn, who is widely admired. Although it is a struggle to maintain a program as successful as Cass Tech has been, Clarence had been doing so for many years prior. “We don’t compete in the best league,” he says, “but I have always had them ready to compete in as many Saturday tournaments as possible. We may not have won any regional titles, but my team has been very competitive. We have won 18 straight Public School League Division 1 City Championships.” Indeed, his girls won another league championship this past spring and came in fourth at the regional behind the powerhouses of Grosse Pte. South, Troy, and Troy Athens. They have only lost the city championship four times since he began coaching.
                “I am so proud of this team because of the number of girls who have worked so hard to become better players,” says Clarence of the 2013 squad. “In all my years of coaching, this group was the most emotional. I became close to this squad because of the number of seniors who stayed for three or four years. I have had other teams that were more talented (1998 and 2010: both state qualifiers) but this team was very close.”
                As far as colleagues are concerned, Clarence and his kids are a class act. Despite numerous disadvantages, the girls are always in uniform (they buy them). Their Player Information Sheets are filled out correctly. Their coach is present at regional seeding meetings, regardless of whether or not his kids have a chance at a seed. They are well-behaved.
                Until Fuzz came along, Clarence did this without an assistant. He was so admired for his steadfast work that he was named MHSTeCA Coach of the Year in 2004.  It is to his credit that someone with Fuzz’s credentials would be drawn to help.
                “It is hard sometimes getting the girls to practice because there are not courts at Cass so we practice and play matches at Belle Isle,” says Fuzz. “Clarence doesn’t have a large budget for equipment. We get practice balls sometimes from the SEMTA office. The designs of the uniforms don’t really change, so once one is bought, they don’t need to buy new ones next year.”
                Among other duties, Fuzz helps with the newcomers. “There are a group of rookies that we work with, too,” he says. “One of our rookies from the previous year moved up to play #2 singles this year. I have never seen such an improvement in a player.”
                Fuzz usually works with the singles players in practice and then helps coach everyone in the matches. But to be sure, Clarence is the leader. “What he does is really care about the welfare of the players, not only in driving them to the site, but caring about their academic studies and their home life,” says Fuzz. “He stresses the tradition of Cass and the continued winning record in the Detroit city league.
                It is quite a record. Over 23 years, Clarence’s kids have won over 200 matches (233-65).  He has not only taken his kids out of the county for Saturday tournaments but for scrimmages as well. At his own expense, he is almost always at the annual clinic, soaking up information and making contacts. He reads books and watches videos. He teaches the game not only after school but, back in the day, also in his physical education classes.
                It isn’t easy. “Considering that we only have one practice bus per week, I was pleased and proud of the number of ladies who have to find their own transportation to practice,” says Clarence. This year’s squad was comprised of 20-25 players who went on to beat Lincoln Park, Warren Mott, and Southfield, and tied with Dearborn Fordson and Allen Park.
                Clarence retired from teaching in 2010 but is only thinking about retiring from tennis coaching. “I ask myself, ‘Should I go out on top or go out when we are on the bottom and they want to kick me out?’” he jokes.
                Fat chance. This is a man who has coached successfully both before and after undergoing open heart surgery in 1997. He calls it his mid-life tune-up and says that “Heart surgery has done me well, not many ill effects.” Between accepting another coach of the year award and his golf game, he -- and we -- have much to look forward to.

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GIRLS (Spring)
Roger Cornelius, Richland Gull Lake - Division 2

                When Roger Cornelius was hired as the new French teacher at Gull Lake High School, he was also asked to help coach football. After all, he had played the sport at Wheaton College. “I wasn’t interested in coaching it,” he says. “By then, I was playing a lot of competitive tennis. But I made it through the fall season. The boys varsity tennis coach asked me to be his JV coach in the spring, the beginning of my 38 years of continuous tennis coaching at Gull Lake. It was never a plan, but that’s how it worked out.”
                It worked out well, even in the beginning. In 1976, Roger fielded such a strong girls team that they won the conference and regional titles, and then advanced to the state tournament which was played at Stowe Stadium. Although it was cold – with some snow on the courts – his kids played well enough to finish fourth. “For such a young naïve coach, it was huge,” he says.
                In the ‘80s, Roger had the good fortune to coach strong boys teams that included Hall of Famer Jim Cummins’ two sons. One of these teams finished third in the state one year and a 4S player won the state championship. “Now, he’s (the champion) my neighbor,” says Roger. “Life is good.”
                “Roger is a solid coach and well-liked by parents and fellow coaches,” says Jim. “My sons played for him and I have played tennis with and against him.  Our teams used to compete against each other in a dual match and in two different tournaments each year. He is a good, friendly guy to be around and you know he is going to play by the rules.” Indeed, Jim’s son Scott was such a strong Gull Lake player that he reached the semifinals of the state tournament before losing to the eventual state champion.
                Despite a family tragedy, Roger has stuck with it for almost four decades. “Working with young people is so healthy and energizing for me,” he says. “To some degree, I owe part of my positive mental outlook to tennis.”
                This applies to recent events as well. Seven years ago, Roger coached Greg Andrews to a state championship at 1S. This past spring, Sara Remynse won the conference championship, captured the regional title, and lost in three sets in the state championship match. The team tied for first place with Battle Creek Lakeview in the conference.
                But Roger gets just as much enjoyment from his lower level players. This past spring, he was particularly pleased to watch a senior, who had never made varsity before, make the team at 4D, despite surgery that kept her from participating in challenge matches (lousy weather delayed the matches and allowed her to rejoin the team in time to prove herself). “I was ecstatic for her and her family,” he says. “They couldn’t afford lessons for her, but she was a quick learner.” A recommendation from Roger helped her to earn a $13,000 per year scholarship from Kellogg Community College.
                Roger remedies the private lesson problem by holding a summer program which he has directed for 30+ years. He has been a teaching pro for three decades through the Professional Tennis Registry. He went to Dennis VanderMeer’s Tennis University where he received training and credentials. Of course, it doesn’t hurt him or his kids to be close to Kalamazoo and Stowe Stadium.
                And he loves to play. He participated in travel tennis at Wheaton and then continued when he moved to the Battle Creek area. His partners and opponents include Hall of Famer Jim of Battle Creek Springfield, current Secretary-Treasurer Gary Ellis of Allegan (with whom he won a medal at the Irish Open at West Hills in Kalamazoo), current President Mike McGinnis of Battle Creek Springfield, and former President Peter Militzer of Portage Central.  2006 Assistant Coach of the Year Chuck Parker (then of Portage Central, now varsity coach at Otsego) is also deemed a close friend.
                Roger fits right in with this august company. He was voted Division 2 MHSTeCA Boys Coach of the Year in 1996. He adds another award, this time for girls, to his collection.

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GIRLS (Spring)
Rob Girvin, Armada - Division 3

                As a player for Dave Fredette’s varsity team at Armada, Rob Girvin also worked in his summer program. “I learned that I loved coaching during the summers of feeding tennis balls,” he says. “When the opportunity came up at the age of 20 to take over the girls tennis team, I jumped at it.”

                To say the least, it was an unusual situation. After all, at that time Rob would be coaching some of the girls that he had gone to high school with. “All I knew was that I couldn’t do worse than the previous coach (not Dave) had. The year before I took over, the team won a total of one point at the regional and had a horrible record.”
                To be sure, Rob came to the job with credentials that these first kids were aware of. In his four years of playing for Dave at Armada (1998-2001), he was the ITL MVP and Times Herald Blue Water Player of the year (2000), was three times all state singles (1999-2001), made the Macomb County Dream Team twice, was regional champion twice, and held the school record for singles wins until this year when Ryan Carlson broke it. He played singles all four years (4S his freshman year, 1S the rest), was team captain twice, and went to the state finals all four years.
                Given this legacy of winning, it was no surprise that the results of Armada tennis changed under his leadership. After inheriting a squad coached by someone other than Dave for the previous three years, Rob and his former coach worked to revive the team and get the program going again. “I was only actually going to coach four years of girls (to get my sister through school) but after the season switch, I stuck with it,” he says.
                Indeed. Over the past 10 years, Rob’s Armada girls have won 68 matches against 34 losses. They captured the Blue Water Athletic Conference title in 2006 and again this past season.  The Tigers were also Macomb County Team of the Year both years. Their coach was named BWAC Coach of the year and Regional Coach of the Year. At age 30, he has been coaching the girls team for a decade. And in all 10 years, they have been MHSTeCA Academic All State.
                Rob’s goal has always been “to establish a well-respected program that teams love to compete against.” He achieved it by taking over the same Armada Summer Tennis Program that gave him his start. It runs 4-6 weeks, offering tennis lessons for beginner through advanced players. “We usually serve at least 50+ kids per session and also started a Wee One’s program for children under 5,” he says. “We did this long before the USTA started their program.”
                Rob also started a Middle School Tennis Club to get kids interested in tennis. “We have run the program consistently for the past 7-8 years and have had as many as 80+ kids in the spring program,” he says.  “The club introduces many kids to the game who might not play in high school without being shown the ropes at an early age.”
                For four years, Rob was a USPTA Certified Teaching Professional at the Port Huron Tennis House. “I gave both group and private lessons while completing my teaching degree at Wayne State University,” he says. “I learned a ton on how to run large group instruction from pros Dave Brown and Steve Pillon.”
                But Rob says he learned the most from Hall of Famers Dave Fredette and Dean Sousanis. “I observed them and their coaching styles while a player at Armada,” he says, “and have tried to uphold the game as they would want us to.”
                Team bonding trips help. In past years, the group has camped Up North and has gone whitewater rafting in West Virginia.
                Rob’s success hasn’t been limited to the girls. Over five years as boys varsity coach at Armada, he has notched a 29-12-5 record, coached three all state players, been BWAC league champion once (2004), and won a Division 4 regional (also 2004).  His 2004, 2005 and 2007 squads were named Macomb County Teams of the Year. State tournament finishes in Division 4 were 12th in 2004, 12th in 2005, and 9th in 2007, the year when he was named Macomb County Coach of the Year. He quit coaching boys after the 2007 campaign.
                Over the years at MHSTeCA board meetings, Dave Fredette has said that Rob is an up and coming coach “who is not yet ready to be a coach of the year.” By virtually every measurement, that has changed.

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GIRLS (Spring)
Jim Niebling, Portland - Division 4

                Two summers ago, Ed Waits received an e-mail from a new tennis coach in the Jackson area who, although an admirer of our annual clinic, noted that all the sessions were directed towards an audience of experienced tennis leaders, those who had coached for many years and were at the workshop to refine their expertise. He lamented the absence of sessions for newbies. Ed immediately referred him to Jim Niebling.
                That’s because there once was a time when Jim had walked in this gentlemen’s shoes. Although he had played high school tennis for Hall of Famer Harley Pierce at Sturgis, “I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing,” he says of the beginning. In the early ‘90s, he started a tennis club in his fourth year of teaching at Portland High School, formed a co-ed team, and called local athletic directors seeking matches with area JV squads. “In my tenure as coach, I’ve seen the program grow from used balls in five-gallon buckets to 10 courts, six teaching carts, three ball machines, travel bags, tents, player chairs, and on and on,” he says
                Thus, Jim had firsthand experience and, typical of his initiative, he used this situation to start a mentoring program. He recruited both mentors and mentees through both the MHSTeCA and Gina Mazzolini at the MHSAA, and then proceeded to match them up. As he describes this effort, “I then make an introduction between the mentor and the mentee and make a few general suggestions on how to conduct their relationship. For all practical purposes, I’m just running a dating service for high school tennis coaches.”
                A second quest involves the decline of tennis participation in recent years, particularly in Division IV. As District Director in charge of the Participation Committee, Jim tried to address one facet of the problem by forming a Competitive Balance Committee to look into the extreme disparity between perennial powers who almost always qualify for the state finals and the third of all schools offering tennis who have never fielded a team that participated in the final tournament. The group found that year after year, only a handful of teams had a legitimate chance to win a state title. He tried to adapt Ohio’s approach to the problem of extreme disparity. “The whole approach became useless,” he concluded, noting that even if an acceptable approach could be cobbled together, “It was a long shot to get it approved up the chain of command anyway.”
                Jim serves (pun intended) in a multitude of other capacities as well. He hosts Saturday tournaments, even directing one this past spring in which his team didn’t play (long story). But he also hosted two in which his kids won. “In our league, we were close to catching Williamston for second, but we were distant to the champions, Lansing Catholic,” he says. “A week later at regionals, we may have peaked. We passed Williamston and drew much closer to Lansing Catholic by getting a couple of upsets at flights we had lost in both our duals with them and at the league finals just a week before.”
                In other words, his kids can play, even if they underperformed (his word) at the state finals. And their coach can coach. Over 19 years, his girls have put together a 91-27-7 record with four conference championships, one regional title, and five trips to the state finals. Their best finish was fifth.                 
                Jim has hosted more regionals than he can count. In addition, he serves on the MHSTeCA board of directors and has been a presenter at the annual clinic. The session, predictably, was entitled “Building successful programs at small schools.” Moderated by Ron Landfair of Lansing Catholic, panelists included Erin Fouty of Northpointe Christian and Steve Stanley of Williamston.                                                 At one point, Steve  summarized Jim’s contributions to high school tennis as “a tale of two serves. He has a fierce first serve when the matches are underway. No one is more competitive, strategic, alert, and engaged when the ball is in play and a match is in the balance. Then there is Jim’s second serve for when the match is over and Jim shifts from winning for his team to the health of high school tennis.” 
                The above is ample evidence. Indeed, Jim’s service – both on and off the court -- has not gone unappreciated. He has been chosen Regional Coach of the Year over a dozen times. He has previously been awarded a Boys State Coach of the Year honor twice, once in 2003 and again in 2010. This third COY is for girls. He was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2012. A wall in his den is getting crowded.

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BOYS (Fall)
Tim Buck, Grandville - Division 1

                “I got started in tennis as a very young child playing tournaments and being involved in the Grandville summer tennis program back in the tennis boom of the early seventies,” says Tim Buck. One of the reasons for his interest was that his father, Jim, was a tournament player who had competed at the varsity level for four years at Hillsdale College. Thus, it was no surprise that Tim played four years of varsity tennis for Grandville High School, the team qualifying for state competition twice and finishing fifth his senior year.
                “Tim had so much talent as a player and we developed a bond of respect because we both knew it would help him,” says Tiger Teusink, who at the time was coaching at Holland High School. “He got many warnings and point-penalties, but always thanked me for running a good tournament. His eagerness in coaching reflects much respect for the game of tennis.  My memories of him are all good.”
                Tim continued, playing for Ferris State where he achieved championship status both in singles and doubles in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. After college, he worked at the Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor, Michigan, doing several jobs, one of which was serving as a teaching pro. But then he moved back home to Grandville in 1987, taking a position as a social worker helping with chronically mentally ill adults. “There was some flexibility in my job as far as timing, so I jumped on the open tennis position at Grandville,” he says.
                With the birth of their second child in 1995, Tim chose to be a stay-at-home dad. “My employer was cracking down on extracurricular activities,” he says. He also got help from his father, a State Farm executive who became assistant coach in 1997 at the same time that he was Mayor of Grandville. The two have been a team coaching a team ever since.
                “Yes, there were times he couldn’t make practices but I don’t think he ever missed a Saturday tournament,” says Tim. “We have always hosted two or three tournaments a season and he has always been a big help in running those with me. He is 80 years old now. He was actively practicing with me on the court up until a few years ago but recent physical health problems have sidelined his on-court hitting with the kids. Over the years I would say the kids not only loved seeing the relationship with us on the court but they loved getting his wise old advice and hearing a different voice than mine.”
                Over the years, both Tim and Jim have enjoyed watching Tim’s three children play successfully for the Bulldogs. All three were conference and regional champions in their respective flights. “We have also experienced the beauty of coaching my niece and his (Jim’s) grandchild, who graduated in 2001,” Tim says. As it turns out, the niece has co-directed the Grandville summer program for the past decade.
                Tim describes this past season as magical even though Grandville had lost their four-year 1S player. “Somehow, we became a better team,” he says. ”Our group of three seniors who had played all four years, I think, were not going to be denied of what we probably should have had last year but fell just short.” The Bulldogs had missed out at the regional by losing the last match in the finals at 2S, a contest that would have enabled the team to qualify but not win.
                This past fall was a different story. The squad ended up first in two tournaments, one of which included Battle Creek Lakeview. They finished second in three others, two behind always-powerful Traverse City Central and one behind St. Joseph. They went on to capture the OK Red Conference title, took home the regional trophy (a tournament which featured state qualifiers West Ottawa and Rockford), and finished 15th at the always-loaded state tournament. Their previous best finish was 7th in 2009.
                Over the years, Tim has enjoyed the friendship of excellent coaches, especially in the OK Red which includes such prominent programs as Rockford, Grand Haven, West Ottawa, East Kentwood, and Hudsonville. “Tim is one of those coaches who makes it fun to compete in the OK-Red Conference,” says former president and 1996 Hall of Famer Tom Leyrer of Jenison.  “An example of this would be our Cats & Dogs Tournament. Two rival high schools work together to host an Invitational. He has his parents grilling hot dogs for all of the players, parents and coaches. I’ve always enjoyed his quick sense of humor and appreciated his high degree of sportsmanship.”
                But after 24 years, Tim is ready to hand over what he regards as a solid program to a young and capable assistant. However, as with many districts, his successor needs a teaching job first. “I would love to be a co-assistant with my dad,” he says.
                Imagine running a program with the aid of a former Coach of the Year and a former Mayor.

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BOYS (Fall)
Jim Slaughter, U of D Jesuit - Division 2

                “ Jim was my tennis coach from 1997 to 2000 at U of D Jesuit High School,” says Nick Bickes. “During a match my junior year, I had the opportunity to play four singles. I wasn’t playing well and lost my temper. I threw my racket once and Jim warned me. I would like to say that was enough to stop my on-court behavior, but it wasn’t. I threw my racket again, and Jim called a point penalty on me which cost me the game and the set. He taught me to work through my emotions rather than show them all the time. This lesson has gone beyond the tennis court.”
                “My son Shane was on the tennis team at Brother Rice and for his senior year, he was voted captain of the team,” says Dr. Patrick Callaghan. “Due to an influx of strong talent on the team, he went from playing #2 doubles his junior year to #4 doubles his senior year which he did not like at all. Jim did a masterful job of managing not only my son’s ego but that of all of the parents as the kids jockeyed for positions on the team. With Jim, it was not about who played what slot on the team; it was about being fair and abiding by the rules, even if it means upsetting a player, parent, and/or losing an important match.”
                “My oldest daughter played four years of varsity tennis on the state championship Detroit Country Day team and the second daughter was a four-year doubles player at the Academy of the Sacred Heart,” says Colleen Nagle. “Between the two girls and our son, currently playing for Coach Slaughter, I have put in numerous hours courtside and have observed many coaches in action.  I was impressed with Jim’s coaching technique and positive presence on the courts. The U of D team went on to achieve a team best at the state finals last year. The following spring (2013) at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, then defending Division 4 state champions, Jim helped guide the team to a second state championship in a row, a first in the school’s history.”
                Given the above, it is no surprise that Jim teaches theology, more specifically, Christian Morality, first at U of D Jesuit, then at Brother Rice, and then back at U of D. More to the point, he has clearly practiced what he teaches at some very strong – and potentially stressful – tennis programs. He started coaching at U of D in 1997, directing that program for eight years. “We were not a great team,” he says.   “The program had struggles for years.  After finally making the state tournament in 1999 and the addition of a job program, there was the upward momentum and the starting block for a program.”
                But Jim left U of D to become principal at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic grade school. “After two years as a principal, I missed teaching and coaching,” he says.  “I attempted to go back to U of D but there were no jobs. Knowing the president of Brother Rice, he offered me a teaching position in Theology (Jim has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership). In taking the position, Grant Asher, the head coach, asked me to be his assistant. I did that for two seasons and then took over as head coach when he left for the University of Detroit Mercy job.  In my second season as head coach, we won the 8th State Championship for Brother Rice Tennis and the first since the early 2000s.
                “When a job at U of D opened, I took the teaching position in the fall of 2010,” he continues. “I wasn’t going to coach but Seaholm asked me to be the interim coach. So I taught at U of D and coached at Seaholm. {just after Hall of Famer Keith Bernacki passed: Jim stayed two years}.
                “Then, what I was hoping for happened: the job at U of D opened,” Jim says.  “I was offered the position and now am in my second season back as head coach. So actually my 10th season with a break between years 8 and 9.
                To understate, the second season wasn’t a bad one. Jim’s team finished at 8-1-1 (lost to Brother Rice, tied Cranbrook but beat Detroit Catholic Central, Okemos, and Ann Arbor Greenhills), won two tournaments, finished second in the conference, and first in the regional, winning all but one flight. They went on to capture a runner-up trophy at the state tournament. 
                But the story gets even better. “Judy Hehs asked me to join as Co-head Coach at Academy of Sacred Heart this past spring,” he says.  “Since she was principal and is limited with time, she felt she needed not an assistant but a co-head coach.  Coming off their first State Championship, they needed to refocus and plan a repeat. Which we did!”
                “He came in for an interview with our then AD, Debbe Pavle, says Judy of the hiring process. “She couldn’t get a word in edgewise, as Jim and I began talking about coaching philosophy and other really tennis-specific topics.  She figured we’d be a good match, so we hired him, pretty much on the spot.”
                There are three things that impress about Jim. (1) Wherever he has gone, his teams have done very well. (2) He has been recruited to coach at very high-pressure, perennially powerful programs that demand excellence. (3) He has achieved considerable success while insisting on and enforcing high standards of character. Indeed, what impressed the board of directors last October was story upon story that went around the room regarding how Jim had, say, benched a player for poor conduct. This doesn’t happen often enough these days, one coach noted.
                Two state championships: One while coaching at Brother Rice and one at Sacred Heart. Also, one state runner-up this year at U of D. Most importantly, the intangibles (a reference to the first three paragraphs).

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BOYS (Fall)
Jim Jonas, Fowlerville - Division 3

                Jim Jonas played high school tennis for Essexville Garber from 1985-1988 under Hall of Famer Harold Holcomb, a precursor to success if there ever was one. He was a two-time regional champion who lost in the 2S quarterfinals of state competition in 1988. He went on to play a year at Delta College before starting his coaching career at Bay City All Saints in 1990.
                It was a good beginning. During his tenure there, the boys finished fourth in the state three times and were 7th in 1991. The Cougars won two regional championships (1993 and 1994) and one conference title (1997). His girls, in turn, qualified for the state meet in 1992 and finished 8th that year. In all, the boys were 68-21 in dual meets under his leadership; the girls: 35-42. He also coached one player, Chris Trudeau, to a 2S Class C-D state championship in 1994.  Jon Bork was runner-up at 1S, also in 1994.
                But in 1997, Jim accepted a job at Fowlerville High School teaching Social Studies. In the bargain, the system also got an experienced and successful tennis coach who, as it turned out, was to work at a school without a tennis team and was located “in the middle of nowhere” (words supplied by a MHSTeCA board member). 
                “When I came to Fowlerville they didn’t have a tennis team, and the only courts were four run-down courts at the village park,” he says. “We passed a bond in 2002 and 8 beautiful courts were built for play in the fall of 2007.  So for my first 10 years, we didn’t have a varsity team, although we did start a club that I helped run for a couple of years.  With the formation of the courts I started the boys team in 2007 (spring) and have coached it ever since.  Meanwhile another coach started the girls team. He retired from coaching in the spring of 2011, and I picked up the girls job starting with the spring of 2012.”
                “When I was hired, I jokingly told the principal that if you build courts, we will start a tennis program,” he continues.  “He became the superintendent and when the bond was passed, he found me and said he did his part; now it was time for me to do mine and start a team.”
                Jim did more than merely start a team, especially given Fowlerville’s absence of tennis tradition. “If you drove by the Fowlerville courts this past summer (and the previous three) you would always see 6-10 kids playing tennis all hours of the day,” he says.  “Their hard work was rewarded with the season we had.”
                It was, to use Jim’s word, unique.  “We had 10 seniors in our top 12, 8 of whom played in the top 12 last year,” he says. “So when we did our end-of-season meeting last year, I had them fill out goal sheets, but I went and wrote in state finals as the #1 team goal for everyone.  That was our focus for every off season workout, every preseason practice, and our cheer at the end of every practice and match.  I was very fortunate to have such dedicated players who bought into our system and gave everything they had.  It was so rewarding to see their hard work paid off when we qualified for states.”
                This was the culmination of a very successful season. Jim’s kids were 8-1-2, only losing to Haslett (eventual conference and regional champion) and tying with Parma Western and DeWitt, two state qualifiers. They won one invitational and placed second in two others. Not bad for a school with no tennis tradition and located in the middle of nowhere.
                As it turns out, the location of the courts appealed to Jim Niebling  last spring. He was looking for a venue midway between Portland and Monroe so that his girls could play Wayne Asher’s Monroe St. Mary’s squad. “Out of the 20 or so e-mails I sent out, about 5 or 6 bothered to reply, and of those 5 or 6, Jim was the only one who not only agreed, he went way out of his way to check with the proper authorities to be sure they’d allow it,” says Jim. “Plus, he offered additional help to get the dual all set up when the time came. A couple of others agreed, but they clearly did so reluctantly. Jim was very willing to help out in every way he could.”
                The same applies to his service to our organization. Jim was a board member when he coached at All Saints but dropped out for understandable reasons (no tennis program). Seven years later, he volunteered to conduct the Coach of the Year balloting in his regional once his team was established. This past fall, he rejoined the board.
                Not every season has been so successful, but this one, given the circumstances, is well-deserved. Considering Jim’s body of work over 15 years, so is his Coach of the Year award.

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BOYS (Fall)
Chuck Pothoven, Holland Christian - Division 4

                Growing up in tennis-rich Holland, Chuck Pothoven received  lessons from the legendary Tiger Teusink, competed in multiple matches against present Holland High School coach Kevin O’Keefe, and played high school tennis under his father, 1990 Class B coach of the year Ron Pothoven, who led the always-strong Holland Christian team for 14 years. Chuck played four years for the school, 1S in his senior year, then went on to play four years of varsity tennis at Calvin College. During his junior and senior seasons, he was team captain there.
                Understandably, he knew he wanted to teach and coach. His first teaching job was a school that had no interscholastic athletics. “I really felt that void,” he says. “I stayed connected to tennis by working in the summers with Vic Amaya at the Michigan Athletic Club. Someone there bumped into me and told me of the Cornerstone College coaching position. I jumped at the opportunity.”
                Although Chuck inherited a program that lacked both real direction and players who were not willing to take the sport seriously, it didn’t take him long to bring in recruits who desired a competitive athletic experience. Within the next five years, he was honored twice as conference coach of the year.
                “But teaching high school and coaching college tennis at two different institutions was very challenging for me – logistically, professional – and my family,” he says. “During my 4th year at Cornerstone, I got my current job at South Christian, and I knew this would be ‘home’ - a chance to teach and coach for the same school.  I coached a 5th year at Cornerstone - to end my time there with 5 seniors - then began coaching at South Christian.”
                The ensuing 14 years have been good ones (78-56-24), especially this past season. Chuck’s boys won three quads that he hosted against very good competition (North Muskegon, NorthPointe Christian, West Catholic, Ludington, Kalamazoo Christian, Essexville Garber).  The Sailors also took first place in the OK Gold Conference. “The last two years, our conference has been VERY close between us and Grand Rapids Catholic Central,” he says. “This year, during the regular season, we tied 4-4 in our dual match.  At the conference tournament, it was a GREAT see-saw battle.  We played them in 7 of the 8 finals.  FIVE matches had the opposite result from the dual match.  We won 4 of those 7 (and the other against a different school), giving us the tournament win and the outright title.  Sharing or winning the conference title outright the last two seasons are both firsts for South Christian boys tennis.”
                According to Chuck, the regional was loaded with good teams for the second year in a row. “This year, at season’s end, FOUR teams were in the coaches’ Top Ten rankings (West Catholic, South Christian, GR Catholic Central and North Muskegon),” he says.  “A 5th, NorthPointe Christian, had been ranked at one point.  Last year, even though we beat or tied SEVEN teams in the top ten, we failed to qualify for the state tournament.  This year, we were just as good and I was very anxious all year that we might again fail to qualify.  Fortunately, we avoided upsets and created two important ones of our own.  Two of our seniors at #2 and #3 singles were seeded 3rd and pulled off significant “upsets” by defeating the #2 seeds in the semi-finals.  Our #4 singles player and our #3 doubles team were able to win regional titles.  West Catholic won a crucial 3rd set against us at #2 doubles, which ended up giving them the 1 point margin of victory for the regional crown...23 points to our 22 points.”
                Chuck notes that South Christian is not located in a tennis “hotbed” area of Grand Rapids.  “Indoor clubs are located in other parts of town and our school is steeped in the traditions of football and soccer,” he says.  “VERY few of our families probably have heard of or know what the USTA is.  Two summers ago, I started a summer tournament, simply as a way to promote tennis within our community and provide a tournament for players, both USTA members and non-members.  I also had an eye on using this tournament as a fund-raising avenue for maintaining our facility. While not historically part of tennis elite, South Christian EASILY has one of the best tennis facilities in the state...ask anyone who’s played, coached or watched there.  
                “So...a year ago, Keith (Stulp, girls varsity coach) and I determined that our courts needed to be resurfaced.  But this is expensive!!  I targeted a handful of families whose children played for us and who own their own businesses, hoping they would sponsor the tournament.  While I was not able to get a ton of sponsors, there were a handful of folks who have a passion for South Christian and for our tennis program.  Through their generosity, we were able to fund the entire project (6 courts this year...6 next year) without needing any funds from our school’s general budget or sports booster program.
                “Keith and I did the project ourselves during the hottest week of the summer.  At times, it was BRUTAL.  Hands and knees?  YES...and back-breaking!!  There were times when we were working with just the two of us, but we had around 8 current or former players help out at different times during the process. For our paint, sand, and most of our supplies, we used Sportmaster products and purchased them from a vendor located near Detroit who has a secondary location near Grand Rapids.  From start to finish, it took us about three weeks.  Next summer, we plan on having more assistance the entire time and think we can trim our time down to a little over a week.  Most importantly, I am VERY happy to say that the end result turned out great.”
                Often enough, a coach of the year is a grass roots individual who, in the words of Tiger Teusink, ”gets his hands dirty.” In this case, Chuck got his hands paint-spattered. Superior effort and excellent results, both during the season and in the summer, make him a worthy Coach of the Year.