MHSTeCA COACH OF THE YEAR - 2007
(click on coach's name to read more about them)
DIVISION - COACH
DIVISION - COACH
|1 - Jason Go, Port Huron Northern||1 - Bob Quinn, Saginaw Heritage|
|2 - Al Must, Rochester Adams||2 - Larry Nykerk, Traverse City Central|
|3 - Tom Ellis, Detroit Country Day|
|4 - Erin Fouty, Northpointe Christian||3 - Matt Brown, Cadillac|
|4 - Rick Fedoruk, Berrien Springs|
Jason Go, Port Huron Northern - Division 1
By virtually any account, Jason Go’s Huskies enjoyed an exceptional season even though early in the spring they lost to perennial state champion Ann Arbor Pioneer. “I told the guys before we played AAP in early April that we had more room for growth than any other team because of our youth,” he says. “Playing against Pioneer early in the season was good because there was no pressure on us and our team could really see how they measured up to the best in the state.”
The team’s only other loss was to league-rival Grosse Pointe South, a team that went on to finish third at the state tournament. “The loss to GPS at home provided a lot of spark for the rest of the season,” continues Jason. “After that loss, the guys took it pretty hard and worked harder and got better because they knew that they let a golden opportunity slip away.”
“I also told them that, although AAP and GPS are early, we don’t want to be playing our best tennis this early in the season,” he says. “Our focus was on improving during the season so that we are playing our best tennis by the time states come.”
Mission accomplished. Port Huron Northern went on to win their remaining dual matches (5) and six tournaments, including the Macomb Area Conference Red Division tournament, which included Grosse Pointe South. “It was the first time that we won any part of the MAC Red in the history of the program,” he says.
The Huskies then swept every flight at their regional without losing a set. Two weeks later, they capped a successful season by finishing fifth at the state tournament, just three points from third place. “We had our best finish in the history of the boys program with a 5th place finish, the most points (16), and first flight winner (at 1D),” Jason concludes.
It is important to point out that that Port Huron Northern accomplished all this in Division 1 when they could have competed in Division 2 this spring. “I had a feeling that we could be successful and a potential state champ in Division 2,” he says. “I told the guys that we dropped to D2 and they all seemed very disappointed because they love playing states in Midland and they wanted to beat Pioneer in D1. The guys were unanimous in their decision to move up to D1.”
Together with competitive attitude, Jason also attributes the team’s success to improvement during the season and team chemistry. “We got along really well,” he says. “They all play together and hang out together and look out for each other. In addition, one of the things that I like to build into the program is a sense of history and a sense of the team.” In this case, he might be referring to the powerful programs that former coach Al Wright developed on his way to induction into the MHSTeCA Hall of Fame in 1999.
But Jason might also be referring to his own experience as a player at University Liggett where he competed under Bob Wood. He played 2D, 1D, and 3S in his sophomore, junior, and senior years respectively and was state champion at all three flights. He was all-state in 1991 and 1992 and was part of the state championship team in 1990. He was named Most Valuable Player award, the Most Improved Player award, and given the David Barlow Award for sportsmanship in 1991 and 1992.
In other words, Jason brought a wealth of experience and success to the Northern program. Although he credits the Port Huron Tennis House and a wonderful tennis community for his team’s success, there is little doubt that his leadership has played an integral part. After all, even before he took over the job, he knew all the kids on the team. “I point out my experiences at Liggett and that this may be the last time they can play on a team and to make the most of it,” he says. Both players and coach – now a Coach of the Year -- have successfully done so.
Al Must, Rochester Adams - Division 2
“His program came out of nowhere,” said one MHSTeCA board member when describing the progress of Al Must’s squad this past spring. Although not expected to do so well, the Highlanders finished in a tie for second (with North Farmington and behind Bloomfield Lahser) in their regional and 6th in the state.
But “coming out of nowhere” is a misrepresentation for those who have coached or watched tennis in the northwest suburban Detroit area over the past two decades. Although ensconced in arguably the toughest conference in the state – West Bloomfield, Birmingham Seaholm, Beverly Hills Groves, Troy, Bloomfield Andover and Lahser, and North Farmington – Al has always fielded strong teams that would have been even more successful if they were located in other areas of the city or state. For instance, his teams ended the season atop Division 2 of the Oakland Activities Association the previous two years but this year finished third in Division 1. And yet the Highlanders were sixth at the state tournament.
This year’s squad, made up of a very strong lineup in singles and veterans in the upper doubles, gave them strong leadership. “The doubles teams jived well,” says Al, “and the singles players were the springboard early. Our team goal was top 7 and I am proud to have accomplished that.” Their dual meet record was 9-1-3, three ties implying stiff, close competition.
“Coming out of nowhere” also doesn’t apply when you look at Al’s overall record. Adams teams have been state tournament participants over 20 times, including 13 top 10 finishes, six regional titles, 18 league championships, and, for Al, 316 team victories. A highlight occurred in 1987 when his girls – with Amy Frazier at 1S – won the state title. In addition, his boys finished second in 1991, missing the title by 2 points. This year’s squad “would be in the top 5-10 of all the teams that I have coached over the years.”
A self-described late-bloomer, Al started playing in college. By grad school, he was playing in tournaments and giving lessons to the point where he secured a Western ranking in both singles and doubles. He began coaching in Delta, Colorado in 1978 after getting his master’s from the University of Denver, and stayed there 8 years. He moved back to Michigan so that his kids could be closer to family. In addition to working as a school social worker at Rochester Adams (22 years), he became head pro at the Bloomfield Surf Club (where he has been for the past 21 years) and also works at Pine Lake Country Club. He gained his USPTR Professional Certification in 1994.
“Coming out of nowhere” might be a phrase which applies only if you think about the success Al has enjoyed without appropriate recognition. Over 21 years and with over 300 victories, he has successfully coached against Hall of Famers Jan Esper (Lahser), Warren Block (Troy Athens), and Ed Waits (Southfield-Lathrup). Jerry Murphy of cross-town rival Rochester was Boys Coach of the Year in 1993. In other words, recognition for Al in view of the company he has kept is perhaps overdue.
Go to TOP of page
Tom Ellis, Detroit Country Day - Division 3
“It was my feeling at the start of the year (spring, 2007) that Division III would be one of the best and most competitive in the state,” says Detroit Country Day’s Tom Ellis. “East Grand Rapids returned a lot of players and I felt any of five to six teams could win it all. They (East) handled the pressure better than the rest of us, but we had our chances. There is always disappointment but in the end, you tip your hat and congratulate the team that won. It was by far the most competitive state finals in which I’ve been involved.”
This sportsmanlike assessment from Coach Ellis comes from considerable experience. After all, he considers his runner-up finish two years ago as much tougher on him. “The year 2005 for the men’s was the most painful, “he says. “Our #4 singles who was top seeded lost to an unseeded player 7-5 in the third. This player never lost another set and won the flight, and we lost the championship by one point.”
But before we anoint Mr. Ellis “the best coach never to have won the Big One,” let the record show that his Yellowjackets were state champions in 2006. Add 4 consecutive state titles (2003-2006) for DCD as girls coach, and his total is five state championship trophies.
This from a guy who was introduced to tennis over forty years ago as a junior in high school when a graduate of that school came back to teach and started a tennis team. Tom considered himself an average player at the time but fell in love with the game and played every chance he could get. When he retired as a mid-level manager with the government, then-DCD coach Bill Ennis needed help with the teams. “Tennis, for good and bad, has become my second career,” says Tom. “I’ve worked for the Tennis and Golf Company as a salesperson, taught tennis at the Beverly Hills Racquet Club, and worked as a Territory Manager with Dunlop Sports.”
To be sure, Tom coaches highly-motivated, academically-inclined athletes year after year. His team is a virtual mini-United Nations of diverse students with a wide range of interests taken from a relatively wide swath of the Detroit-area population. This year’s team was comprised of 3 Asian Indian, 2 Chinese, 1 Hispanic, 1 African-American, 1 Morman, 1 Italian, 3 Jewish, and 3 Western European Anglo. “As you can see,” says Tom, “the team represents how America has become a melting pot of the past and present immigration patterns.”
Tom has the wisdom to recognize the needs of successful student-athletes. “Regardless of the level, the same principals of success are always true,” he says. “Practices should always be organized and to the point and short in duration.” And even more importantly, “With the Country Day program and, I think, all successful programs, continuity is critical. The tennis coaching staff has been the same since I’ve taken over the program. Roles may change, the core staffing has stayed intact.”DCD’s track record substantiates the assertion. Year after year, the Yellowjackets are at or near the top of their division. “He takes care of discipline issues,” said one board member. He has also hosted three regional tournaments and makes his courts available when neighboring Cranbrook holds the event. And it is safe to say that he will be back at the state championships with another contingent of talented, well-trained, motivated youngsters ready to challenge for the title. He will do so as a Coach of the Year.
Go to TOP of page
Erin Fouty, Northpointe Christian - Division 4
“She drives the bus,” said an admiring MHSTeCA board member when Erin Fouty’s name came up for discussion with regard to being voted coach of the year. Literally. Erin took on the extra job when her school’s facilities manager, not a fan of tennis, said in jest that they don’t like to send bus drivers to tennis matches because (1) you can’t cheer and (2) you don’t know how long the match will be. “I figured that if the team is not doing well,” she laughs, “I can always claim that I’m just the bus driver.”
But Erin hasn’t had to make the claim very often in recent years. Although her first season coaching the boys (2003) was a struggle --- they were 2-8-1 – seven of the boys on that team were freshmen with little or no match play experience but with plenty of heart and drive. Six of them stuck it out for the next three years and contributed to an overall record during that time span of 29-4-1. They also won 12 tournaments including regional championships in 2005 and 2006 and a state championship in 2006.
Erin lost seven very good doubles players from that team (two flight state champs, two flight finalists, and two flight semifinalists) which made it seem as if her team would be wiped out in the spring of 2007. But she experienced another resurgence reminiscent of the early days when she saw green newcomers show tremendous improvement from the beginning to the end of the season. This spring’s record was12-2-1. The Mustangs won three invitationals, placed first in their regional, and were runner-up at the final tournament. Every player played to or above his seeding at the state championships.
This is amazing success in a relatively short time, but then Erin is used to getting things done in a hurry. For instance, she took up the game between her sophomore and junior years in high school. After watching Wimbledon that summer, she was inspired to try the sport. Her first time was barefoot with a wooden racket. As it turned out, the legendary Larry Seger (Hall of Fame Class of 1994) happened to be driving by and encouraged her to go out for tennis. “You are obviously a tennis player,” he said to this athlete who was at the time a swimmer.
Consequently Erin spent every day on the courts that summer learning the game with a Jimmy Connors T2000. Coach Seger was right: Erin became first singles at Thornapple Kellogg High School her first season. Two years later -- again because of Larry’s encouragement -- Erin tried out for the Grand Valley team where as a freshman she played second singles and first doubles. “I do not remember a single thing that I learned from my college coaches,” she says, “but I remember many, still useful things that Coach Seger taught me.”
Even though Erin made up for lost time in terms of her playing career, she recognizes that she herself got a late start. Therefore, she pays special attention to elementary kids who come up through the school system and credits former coach Judy Lipiniski for not only toughening up the schedule but working with those in junior high. “The last couple of years we have started to see an increase in our overall numbers due to the programs we run for our younger kids,” she says.Therefore opponents will undoubtedly see the Northpointe bus, with their coach in the driver’s seat both literally and figuratively, at the state tournament in future years. But this time, the bus driver is also a Coach of the Year.
Go to TOP of page
Bob Quinn, Saginaw Heritage - Division 1
When Bob Quinn was growing up in Montague, he didn’t play much tennis because the school didn’t have a team. “I played football, basketball, and track. A teacher at school got my brother and me started in tennis because he wanted someone to play with. My brother and I would walk to Whitehall (about two miles) to play tennis. My father got the school to give us enough land to build two courts. We had to clear pine trees from the area to build them. Most of the work and supplies were donated. After they were completed Mr. Griffin (the teacher), my brother, and I were the only ones to use them until we got other kids playing.”
Fast forward through college to a teacher and coaching career in Saginaw. “The first season was at MacArthur in 1972,” says Bob Quinn. “You talk about a ‘grass roots team’? I was a ‘grass roots’ coach. I was a football and track coach at Buena Vista High School when I was asked to come to MacArthur in 1971 to coach football and tennis. I really did not want to coach tennis but they said I had to. I did not know much about tennis other than what I learned in phys. ed class at CMU but I read everything I could, talked to other coaches – especially Jim Teal (Hall of Fame Class of 1990) – and went to clinics to learn the game. “To show you how much I knew, a kid came off the court and said: ‘He won 2 and 2.’ I said to him: ‘You have to win 6 something, 6 something.’ He said that he did, 6-2, 6-2. [Nevertheless] we won our league that year.”
Fast forward again through 284 dual meet victories, 14 White Pine Conference Championships, nine Class B Regional Championships (all at MacArthur), 22 invitational championships (at both MacArthur and Heritage), 18 trips to the state tournament, and nine Top Ten finishes. Then proceed to spring 2008 when Bob will coach his last campaign. To say that he has come a long way in over three decades is a monumental understatement, but, in fact, about the only things Bob had to acquire when he started his first season were the fundamentals of tennis and involvement with his colleagues. After all, the fundamentals of coaching youngsters and the qualities of leadership and character were always there
With regard to collegial activity, “I do not know how Bob Wood got my name,” he says of the early years when the MHSTeCA was being formed. “He called me and wanted to know if I wanted to get involved in the association.” I said yes and the next thing I knew I was the 1st Vice President behind Charlie Partin (East Grand Rapids and first Hall of Fame Class) and became the second president. It was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.”
Bob was at the first board of directors meeting held at Bill Oliver’s Lodge in Prudenville back in the summer of 1977 when he was tapped to be our association’s second president. Throughout 32 years, he has continued to serve the board, managed Saturday tournaments, and run too many regionals to count. He was named state coach of the year for boys in 1980 and for girls in 1985. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
“Big time integrity,” is the phrase that Tiger Teusink used to describe Bob at the November Board of Directors meeting. This quality manifested itself in his refusal to allow a talented player to participate because that player didn’t want to have to come to practices. “He would have made a big difference in our team, moving everyone down and improving the doubles,” says Bob. “I told him it was important for the team that he be at all of our practices. He chose not to play high school tennis.”
Nevertheless, Bob’s team acquitted themselves well. They won a quad with Flushing, Hemlock, and Alma; tied with Midland in a dual after getting “killed” by them in a tournament; and finished third in their league behind Midland and Dow. In the midst of all this, Bob saw 4S, 3D, and 4D players avenge earlier season losses.
This is not surprising. Bob’s kids were blessed to have a coach who has learned the game, understands the concept of team within what is essentially an individual sport, and has exemplary ethical standards, what some describe as gravitas. He stands up when lots of folks feel more comfortable staying seated. It is more than appropriate that he stand up once more to receive his third coach of the year award.
Go to TOP of page
Larry Nykerk, Traverse City Central - Division 2
Last fall, Larry Nykerk’s Traverse City Trojans were 5-0 in dual meet play. Why so few? When you live in an outpost but want to make an impact statewide, you travel. Last season, Larry’s kids journeyed over 3,000 miles on their way to and from six tournaments. The Trojans played in the Northville Invitational, the Saginaw Heritage Invitational, the Up North Invitational, the Traverse City Kickoff Invitational, the Big North Conference Tournament, and the Great Lakes Invitational. When you play for Larry, you practice during the week in preparation for a tournament on each and every Saturday.
And you practice on excellent courts. That’s because Larry, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, has spent an enormous amount of time not only coaching and running a summer program but raising money over the years for his facilities. In conjunction with the local booster club, he helped raise $60,000 in the 1980s in order to add four courts. Since 2000, he has helped take in over $400,000 in cash in in-kind services through the “Friends of TC Tennis” for a tennis building, six new courts, and resurfacing of the rest. He credits “an awesome group of mobilized parents” who write letters, make phone calls, and host a tennis fundraising event (tournament) each year.
As a result, Larry boasts a tennis center that rivals that of the facility located in Gary Ellis’ Allegan. When players come to Traverse City Central, the can lounge in a pavilion located at the center of the complex with a large covered viewing area that enables them to look out over the courts. A 26 foot concession area is adjacent. The facility also has a team room with lockers, an office, two bathrooms, and four storage areas. Flowers surround the area and a hitting wall is located behind it.
Larry presides over this empire but it hasn’t always so. After 31 years of coaching, he retired in 1999 because teaching full time, coaching high school programs, and running a summer program had taken its toll. However in the ensuing years, several parents worked hard at recruiting him to come back to coach their boys, offering to help with coaching, site directing, fund raising, and concessions. His (and their) goal was to bring the program back. “TC Central boys are back at states and back in the Top Ten,” he says. “We’re back as conference champs.”
Given that Traverse City Central now plays in Division 2, the Trojans were placed with defending champ Okemos, No. 1 ranked East Lansing, and No. 10 Midland Dow. “We were ranked as high as #4 and maintained a #7 ranking most of the year,” he says. “Qualifying was a big hurdle.” His team came in third in the regional and 13th in the state.
After 32 years of coaching and an overall win-loss record of 351-48, you would think that it is time to hang it up but Larry plans to continue teaching and coaching. Over the years, he has taught 27 different language arts courses including literature, speech, writing, cinema, media, and humanities. At Northwestern Michigan College, he has taught film study and run a film conference, has taught film animation workshops, and was film series director at Traverse City Central. He still keeps busy in the summer as well, by running a summer camp (he has taught over 16,000 kids over 31 years, over 600 per summer since 2000) and running three tournaments: the Governor’s Cup, the Cherry Festival Open, and the Northern Michigan Junior Open (500 entries per summer.In other words, Larry is a busy man in his veteran years, but he clearly hasn’t lost his edge. In 2007 he received the NMTA Grass Roots Award for developing local programs. He adds a boys state coach of the year award to the one he received for girls in 1997.
Go to TOP of page
Larry Brown, Parma Western - Division 3
The tennis program at Parma Western is only six years old, yet it is an understatement to say that Larry Brown and his kids have come a long way in a short time. Prior to his taking over as head coach three years ago, there was no JV team. There was no middle school tennis program. There was no elementary school activity. Previously, nobody had attended the MHSTeCA clinics or belonged to the association.
That was then …… Parma Western’s JV team went 13-1 this past fall. The middle school program has over 50 kids. There are 30+ kids in the elementary program. Four of Parma Western’s coaches are MHSTeCA members. There are eight other volunteers who help out.
All of this has produced astonishing dividends in a short amount of time for both varsity boys and girls (the latter qualified for state competition last year). This fall’s boys team was undefeated (13-0). They won four of the five tournaments that they played in, including their regional. They finished 8th at the state tournament. In addition, Larry not only played host to two invitationals this past season but presided over a great crowd at the end of the season banquet. Moreover, each season ends with a player-parent conference to communicate what is expected.
“I would be foolish to claim all the success of our program,” says Larry. Indeed he says that Parma Western tennis began when Paul Wall pushed the school district to implement the sport so that his daughters – excellent players – could compete in high school. Larry himself got involved while watching one of his daughters, a senior, compete during Parma Western’s first year. At the time, there was no JV program. Also, Tim Davidson, a good friend, was the boys coach. At the point when both boys and girls varsity coaches removed themselves because of time constraints and job opportunities elsewhere, Larry was a natural.
But not a natural tennis player/coach. As a youth growing up in Evart, Larry was a self-described gym rat, playing football, basketball, and baseball. John Bennett, his physical education teacher, convinced him to go into teaching and coaching. Dave Driscoll, Jackson Parkside’s football coach, saw something in Larry and hired him as an assistant. “His work ethic and organizational were something I will never forget,” says Larry.
As a result, Larry’s kids are well-prepared to compete. He runs young kids’ clinics, workshops, and camps throughout the year, and two high school camps for boys and girls in the summer. His players, grades 7-12, report for winter workouts for agility and conditioning for six weeks --two weeks at a time. His kids, both boys and girls, work at all home freshman basketball concession stands to raise money for the athletic boosters. He has also taken the boys to Pentwater where they tent camp and then run the beach, practice on the Ludington courts and scrimmage Ludington and Cadillac.
In turn, Larry studies tennis. “When I started coaching six years ago, the only experience I had in tennis was that of a recreational player and a physical education teacher and recreation director background,” he says. “What I did have was a lot of coaching experience in other sports. My weakest principal when I took over the program at Western was my tennis knowledge.”But Larry making up for lost time is parallel to Parma Western’s success. “Our goal is to become one of the premier tennis programs in Jackson County by winning conferences, regionals, and participating in state level tournaments, “ he says. It has taken him only six years to achieve all of this and on the way, to collect a state Coach of the Year award.
Go to TOP of page
Matt Brown, Cadillac - Division 3
“Being a JV coach gave me vast knowledge of how the entire program for high school tennis is run,” says Matt Brown of his six years under Hall of Famer Tim Elenbass. But truth be told, Matt brought more than his share of credentials to the Cadillac program. Starting in the eighth grade, he spent plenty of time on the courts across the street, won the regional at 2D for Sandusky High School during his freshman year, played 1S the next three years, and reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament in both his junior and senior years.
Matt’s high school success earned him a scholarship to play at Oakland University. When their program was cancelled due to Title IX issues, he continued his career at Lake Superior State University where he played No. 1 singles and doubles his junior and senior years and was named GLIAC Player of the Year after losing in the finals of the Rolex (ITA) Midwest Division 2 qualifier. He finished his college career by receiving Academic All-American status and earning a top 30 ranking in Division 2.
At the time, Matt was also already coaching. He started at a private club in Bloomfield Hills and teaching tennis became his summer job thoughout college. Upon graduation, he became the assistant men’s and women’s coach at LSSU. He also coached a girls SEMTA team for a year. Thus when he took a teaching job in Cadillac, he was eminently qualified to take over after Tim’s retirement, the apprentice years being over.
“Living in a rural community, there are no indoor courts or lessons within 50 miles besides those I give myself,” says Matt of his situation. Nevertheless 34 tennis players came out for the boys season. Expectations were not high in that 12 of the top 17 players from the previous spring had graduated. “We thought that this would be a rebuilding year,” says Matt, “but these kids were good athletes who worked hard through the summer.”
Indeed Matt runs a community-based program for four weeks during the summer and other programs for six weeks, instructing camps from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. most weekdays. The program has doubled the number of participants to over 180. Giving the rural nature of the community, he keeps it cheap: $35 for four weeks.
As a result, his high school kids were ready to play come August. “On Day One when those 34 kids showed up, success happened and so did our successful campaign,” he says. “We were able to beat a solid Ludington team 5-3, winning the last three matches of the day, and we came back to tie Petoskey in our conference tournament after falling to them 7-1 in a dual.” Unfortunately, the Vikings came in third at the regional behind Spring Lake and Petoskey by one point and one point from the magic number of 18. “It was not disappointing,” say Matt, “because of the progress we made, because of our effort, and because of the dedication it took to achieve the success we had this season.”
“I consider our high school tennis team to be more than just a tennis program but rather a tennis family,” he continues. We spend countless hours together bonding and creating memories that bring the kids back, which in turn helps recruit kids into our program.”
“He is a first class tennis coach and, more importantly, a first class human being,” says Larry Nykerk, Hall of Fame coach of Traverse City Central. He knows how to have fun, create good relationships, and how to get the most out of his players. Matt’s teams have always been well-behaved, disciplined, and respectful. He is most deserving to be named Division 3 Coach of the Year.”We agree.
Go to TOP of page
Rick Fedoruk, Berrien Springs - Division 4
For most of his younger days, Rick Fedoruk was a baseball player. However his high school, Grosse Pointe South, had “a pretty good tennis reputation” (his words and a gross understatement) “and I remember watching some great players when we’d host regionals. As a result he got a tennis job in 1970 at Detroit Austin for $300 a season. “I got the tennis job because I was on staff at the time the position was available,” he says. “I had lots of confidence, but not much money. So, I told them I could coach anything and they believed me. I remember being hired and then going to the library and checking out a book by Bill Tilden.” As it turns out, Rick coached a state championship doubles team in 1972. From there he took a circuitous route (from Detroit to Colorado Springs to Battle Creek before ending up at Berrien Springs in 1983
Tucked into the southwest corner of the state, you would think that tiny Berrien Springs would not be a force in tennis, but Rick’s success is due in part to 25 years of continuity. This year’s trip to the state finals was his 14th, the highest previous finish being 2nd place (one point behind Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook) in 1972. This year’s trip to the state finals was the Shamrocks’ fourth as a team or individually in the last five years. The squad went 11-5-1, won the Lakeland Conference, captured the regional championship, and finished 15th at the state tournament. For the second consecutive year, Rick saw one of his players named All-State Honorable Mention and, perhaps more proudly, the team was All-State Academic for the 7th time in 8 years.
“This really was a special season,” says Rick. “The real story is how this team handled numerous challenges. Starting with this year’s schedule, which was extremely demanding, we had to find a way to beat Buchanan at both the conference and regional levels. We did. That came through hard work, notebooks, goals, and tennis homework on weekends. However, the real key to this season was a phrase we’d say at the end of each practice and before each match: ‘No Compromise.’
Over the years, Rick has learned that strength of schedule trumps undefeated seasons playing weaker opponents. “From that lesson, we developed a friendship that I have enjoyed,” says Hall of Famer Jim Cummins of Battle Creek Springfield. “He didn’t have the undefeated teams but found the competition beneficial and played in my tournaments until our school closed. I found his players competed fairly and with good sportsmanship. At that time, the program was there because of Rick.”
Rick’s kids are well-prepared and well-organized. “All my players are given notebooks (about 50 pages) to start the season,” he says. We get a couple of six-foot subs, lots of juice, and go through it together. Each notebook has three parts. The first part is filled with pictures of professional players, inspirational quotes, program and team goals, rules and regulations, a list of all team members, coaching staff and their phone numbers, practice schedules, uniform orders, warm-up list, and a place for personal goals. Second is the section concerting rules of tennis and court behavior. Each players is given a 30-question test, Code of Conduct card, On-Court Rules, Spectator Guidelines, and a chart showing how to play a tie-breaker. The last section is a strategy guide explaining how to beat every style of player in both singles and doubles.” In addition, early weekends of the season are used for challenges, conditioning, and wall work.
Most assuredly a fixture in the community, Rick, who teaches 8th grade history and assorted electives, has had three of his own children play for him. He teaches summer tennis camps for kids ages 8-13. And yes, he has met local resident Muhammad Ali. “He is very accessible and many of my former students have been to his house,” says Rick. “I remember one afternoon, July of 1996, and Muhammad was riding his bike in town. My wife and I waved to him and the Champ stopped and waved back. The next day he was in Atlanta lighting the Olympic torch. For all his greatness, he is still just a regular part of the community.”So is the high school’s tennis coach. “Rick's teams are always well prepared and competitive,” says Chuck Rubino of Dowagiac. “He is a class act and so are his teams.” Thus, from now on Berrien Springs will also be known as the home of a state coach of the year.
Go to TOP of page