Karen Langs

(click on Inductee's name to read 'description')

Bruce Grotenhuis, Howell High School

If a fundamental of successful real estate is location, location, location, the foundation of coaches associations such as the MHSTeCA is communicate, communicate, communicate. In the fledgling days of 1977, that meant producing a newsletter typed on stencils and reproduced on a ditto machine. But the Information Age, spurred on by satellites and computers, increased the effectiveness of our vehicles of communication. At the time, many of us were led kicking and screaming into the world of the Internet by Hall of Famer Harold Holcomb of Essexville Garber.

But when Hoke became ill in the early ‘90s, Bruce Grotenhuis, who had learned this stuff from scratch in the process of teaching a class in computer fundamentals, took over. The result has been a website that is nothing short of a bragging right, one which offers an enormous assortment of information. From pictures of the all-state players to pictures of those who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, from information about who is in your regional (the most often-asked question, some say) to information about who won coach of the year honors, answers are only a click away, thanks to the hours of work that Bruce has contributed. Given the excellence of his work, it is not surprising that he is the webmaster for five organizations.

Bruce’s efforts in this area are merely indicative of the way he has contributed to our organization for the past two decades. At about the same time he assumed Hoke’s website duties, he took over the Tournament Clearinghouse from Tim Coleman. This is a database through which coaches can search for opportunities to participate in the all-important Saturday tournaments (and, of course, it can be found on the website). In 1999, he also assumed duties in public relations, a natural transition in that he was already publishing information regarding Hall of Fame inductees, all state players, and coaches of the year anyway. He served on the association’s board as assistant director for District 2 from 1983-1999. He still occupies a position on the board as an officer.

All of this was done in classic quiet fashion. You might not have known that Bruce was in the room but you knew he had been there because the job had been done, and done well.

This applies to his coaching duties, too. For over 15 years, Bruce has directed the Kensington Valley Conference Tennis Meet, even though his teams have only won the title twice. Six times over the past four years, he has volunteered to help as assistant director at one of the state tennis final tournaments. He annually hosts the Howell Memorial Tournament and a JV Tournament, and has managed two girls regional events.

Even though he is quiet and self-effacing, Bruce’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. He has been the MHSTeCA’s Regional Coach of the Year three times and won state honors as 2002 Boys Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Howell High School Hall of Fame in 2002.

In other words, Bruce has been recognized for spending lots of effective time on the courts of Howell High School, not just in front of a computer screen. Over 27 years at the helm of Howell, his kids have won close to 250 dual meets. Although there are no regional titles or state tournament appearances on his resume, there is little doubt that his service in a decidedly rural - now becoming urban - area has stabilized and promoted tennis there for almost three decades. He labors in a tradition of grass roots coaches who maintain a high level of interest in a sport which probably would not exist in that community without his contributions.

A high school doubles player from Hamilton High School, Bruce learned the game from Wayne Tanis, himself an MHSTeCA Hall of Famer. He is one more example of a player who received excellent coaching and then passed it on. But his talents went beyond what could be done on the court. Bruce’s efforts have touched the lives of virtually any tennis coach who owns a computer. His contributions have been both pioneering and extraordinary. Such individuals belong in the Hall of Fame.

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Karen Langs - Petoskey High School

Sometimes you have to start from scratch, especially if you are not blessed with having played the game as a youngster, or being able to draw upon the natural advantages in your community of a large population, numerous public tennis courts, lengthy tennis tradition, and local indoor racquet clubs. But then again, sometimes you “fall into” a great situation, wherein everything necessary for success is already in place. The story of Karen Langs involves a little bit of both, although she added a new twist to the “fall into” part.

For Karen, starting from scratch first meant a gutsy move from Birmingham to Petoskey in 1970. Husband Russ quit his job, the couple sold everything, and they moved to an area where their children could enjoy growing up in a small town atmosphere. Petoskey has reaped the benefits ever since.

That’s because the couple took their love of tennis with them, having “fallen into” the game when Karen took a phys ed class at MSU. She had signed up for bowling class but it was full; thus the school asked students to voluntarily sign up for something else. She chose tennis, where she met Russ who became her doubles partner in more ways than one.

In the mid-70s, George Haggerty, an entrepreneur from Grosse Pointe, built a racquet club in Petoskey where Karen continued to play. She entered USTA tournaments and was club doubles champion several times.

But as parents of future tennis players, she and Russ realized that their children simply could not compete with kids in the Western Michigan District of the then Western Tennis Association (now the Midwest Tennis Association) in that they had to travel too far for every competition. In addition, downstate players had the advantages of years of competition. Parents in the area felt that local children needed to first grow within a district of their own, have a chance to excel at their own level, and then gradually feed into downstate competition.

Therefore, together with Carolyn Creager of Traverse City, Karen and her comrades “started from scratch” by establishing the Northern Michigan Tennis Association, a separate district. Karen was the organization’s first secretary. She and others attended WTA meetings throughout the Midwest to educate themselves and to bring home programs offered by the USTA. With the help of area pros and adult volunteers, they began getting children involved in USTA programs and tournaments, running their own sanctioned tournaments, and establishing adult league play.

About that time, Petoskey High School began to sponsor girls tennis. Karen “fell into” the high school job the way she fell into tennis in the first place, this time by talking to the athletic director to see what needed to be done. It was an all-too familiar scenario: if the school couldn’t find a coach, there wouldn’t be a team. Someone in the room suggested Karen as coach. “I about fell off my chair,” she said, but agreed to do it for a year.

As it turned out, she loved the job, and 25 years later, she has been a linchpin of not only community tennis in Petoskey but of high school tennis statewide. Karen has represented Northern Michigan tennis on the MHSTeCA’s board of directors since its inception. She lobbied for and currently administers the All Academic Team movement. Petoskey hosts two Saturday tournaments a season, and would host the regional tournament if teams were willing to travel as far as her girls have to go. Thanks to geography, she is one of the few who promotes competition with Upper Peninsula schools, not an easy task.

And they win. Under Karen’s direction, Petoskey girls have beaten opponents 163 times as against 57 losses. They have taken home their share of Saturday tournament trophies, captured four regional titles and been in the Top Ten at the end of the year several times. In doing so, they, in the words of Hall of Famer Chuck Wright, who worked with and competed against her for several years while living in Northern Michigan, conducted themselves with class and dignity because they were taught well by their coach who unwittingly offered herself as a role model.

“She is a terrific coach who teaches life skills as much as tennis,” said Wright. “Her players learn to compete hard, handle winning and losing with poise and maturity, and handle adverse competitive situations with calm and politeness.”

Echoed Hall of Famer Harold Holcomb, “Karen has always conducted herself in a classy way and so have her teams. She and her husband Russ are great positive examples for the Petoskey players to emulate.”

Karen was given the Stanley Malless Award in recognition of her distinguished service in the development and organization of tennis in her area. She was our association’s Class B Coach of the Year in 1985. She adds one more plaque to an undoubtedly already crowded trophy room, this one signifying entrance into the tennis coaches Hall of Fame.

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Bill McDaniel - Holly High School

The numbers are nothing short of astonishing. Under Bill McDaniel, Holly tennis players have captured 34 Flint Metro League championships. The boys have won 13 and currently have a 9-year string in progress. The girls have put together an astounding 21 consecutive titles. In addition, over Bill’s 32 years of coaching (starting in 1975 for boys and 1981 for girls) the Bronchos have taken home 8 regional trophies, been to 25 state tournaments, and were victorious in dual meets 344 times.

But it wasn’t always this way. It took Bill ten years of hard work before he celebrated his first boys’ league title. In the fall of 1981, his first as girls coach, the team was 10-5, 3rd in the league, and 9th in the regionals, The very next year, the squad started 21 years of ongoing history.

But there is more to the story than titles and trophies. Indeed, there is a section in the MHSTeCA Hall of Fame application entitled “Beyond the Numbers” which asks for information about an applicant that transcends wins and losses. It seeks to establish that a coach did more than merely toss out balls and then perhaps sit back in an easy chair to watch his kids win year after year.

Former player Glen Koeske supports this criteria when he says: “What can’t be easily measured is the benefit a coach has on a community or the positive effect on the lives of the students and parents he or she is involved with.” Koeske goes on to say, “Personally, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had not had the pleasure of knowing Bill McDaniel.”

Legions of Holly tennis players can say Amen to that statement. Over the years, Bill has been an integral part of the lives of his “tennis kids,” a designation that remains long after they have graduated into adulthood. Even when they are still in high school, his contact with them doesn’t end with the seasons of competition. Former players testify that he seems to be everywhere in the Holly community: at Little League games cheering on his tennis kids, for instance. He can be found at the hospital visiting a player who had suffered an automobile accident or, in the case of another, who was battling leukemia.

Indeed, Bill took his own turn in the hospital, having suffered two heart attacks in 1997. Colleagues credit the experience with producing a kinder, gentler coach who was able to more readily put wins and losses into perspective. Bill himself jokes about it. “I got a heart attack, so they gave me new tennis courts,” he once said.

The new facility is state of the art, a complex of 12 courts that community members and opponents alike rave about. Opened in 1999, it gives the Holly community 21 tennis courts at three school sites. What is notable is that the board of education allowed Bill to do the design. What is also notable is that the initiative was approved without hesitation or opposition.

Why? A logical explanation is that a substantial number in the Holly community had experienced first-hand the results of Bill’s extraordinary efforts. An expansive and flourishing summer tennis program has brought out kids with racquets in hand for eight weeks, six hours a day, five days a week. There are junior high programs for girls in the fall and boys in the spring. And for over a generation, high school players have taken tennis experiences with them after graduation, remembering their ever-encouraging motivator.

Former player Angie Fenton calls him “a life coach.” She goes on to say that Bill expected his players to “work, run, try, stretch, strain, yearn, live, grow, and grow some more.” Board president Ron Palmgren, whose three kids played for Bill, describes him as “demanding and fair, critical and constructive, analytical and encouraging, perceptive and instructive, understanding and patient.” All­state player Kristen Fettig, who initially locked horns with Bill over her perception of his constructive criticism and “you can do it” attitude", ended up praising him for getting under her skin. “Bill knew exactly what it took to drive me, motivate me and make me want it that much more anger,” she once wrote. “It takes a leader to identify an emotion that will help motivate someone.”

This is a leader who, according to Hall of Famer Jim Fowler, routinely makes his kids stay after the regional tournament is over to clean up the litter and debris from two days of competition. This is a leader who has built and sustained a successful tennis program for almost 30 years at the grass-roots level in a rural community that has one of the lowest per student funding levels in Oakland County . This is a leader who belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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