|Hap Haasch, Richland Gull Lake
|Jane Jordan, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
|Kevin McGuffie, Fraser
A nine-time letter winner, at Holt High School back in the day, Hap Haasch took up tennis (previously, he had only hit in the driveway) in his freshman year when the school’s varsity baseball coach “suggested” that he try another sport (something about Hap’s ability to replace the coach’s son on summer all star teams). It may have been fortuitous. Hap played 1S on the JV team as a freshman, 4S the next year, and 1S as a junior and senior. He was good enough to earn a walk-on spot on the Eastern Michigan University team from 1979 to 1983. “I am a Huron, not an Eagle,” he says.
Fast forward to his oldest daughter’s 7th grade year when Kelsey developed an interest in tennis while the family lived in Ann Arbor (a neighbor of Hall of Famer Tom Pullen, by the way). “We moved to Richland Gull Lake in 2005, and Kelsey went to Roger’s (Cornelius, a.k.a. Mr. C) summer camp, where I first met him,” says Hap. “Kelsey developed quickly and made the varsity team as a freshman, playing some matches at fourth doubles.”
That’s when Hap started to help out as a parent volunteer – setting up, cleaning up at matches, driving kids to invitationals, etc. “Roger invited me to help out a little in practices,” he says. “I loved it. Mr. C is ‘the nicest human being on the planet.’ It got me back into tennis after a 25-year absence. One of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
It works both ways, of course. As Roger dealt with some health issues, parents asked Hap to be more available to support him. “The consensus of the community was that we had to keep Roger involved in GL tennis by whatever means possible,” he says. “So I stumbled into the volunteer Assistant Varsity Coach’s role.” As such, Hap does “whatever Mr. C needs/wants. He is the leader of the program and I have learned a LOT from him.”
Executive Director of Public Media Network in Kalamazoo, Hap helps produce hundreds of hours of local programming each year, including extensive coverage of the USTA Nationals each August. “I am able to flex my work schedule in the spring which allows me to attend every practice and match,” he says. “I make the hours up in the evening and on weekends.”
Hap maintains that things work best when Mr. C. and he divide up the varsity girls and focus on singles and doubles. “I like teaching aggressive doubles play, and Mr. C knows so many ways to help develop mechanics and keep it fun,” he says. “I also get great enjoyment out of working with the varsity players out of season – all within the MHSAA guidelines. I get indoor court time over the winter and work with small groups of players who don’t have the resources for USTA junior groups.”
“For me, having Hap by my side is like having Santa Claus, the tennis pro,” says Mr. C. “He freely donates his time, talent, and treasure to our varsity teams. When we cannot practice outside, he very often rents courts at the Y in Kalamazoo at his expense. He furnishes free rackets that he has used to girls in need of a racket. He has also provides free tennis bags for those with none. He always supplies cases of cold water bottles and Gatorade for matches and practices. On those rare days when it’s actually warm, he provides ice cream treats after practice, always out of his own pocket. He provides warm-up balls at tournaments, tarps for the girls to sit on if there are no chairs or bleachers, snacks if they’re hungry, etc. He furnishes extra socks, hair ties, bandages, overgrip, sweatbands, or whatever the girls might need. I sometimes pinch myself, asking what in heaven’s name did I do to deserve an assistant like this.”
At the very first MHSTeCA workshop in the late 1970s, then U of M varsity coach Brian Eisner described lots of tennis balls in baskets as “gold” to a tennis program. The same can be said for assistant tennis coaches such as Hap.
“For the first time in my tennis coaching career, one of my doubles teams from my JV team went on to play varsity and win a state championship,” says Jane Jordan.
This is no small achievement. Moreover, every doubles team on Pat Williams’ squad this past fall consisted of JV players who improved under Jane’s direction. This means that eight out of the 12 varsity players who won the conference title, the regional trophy, and finished 4th at the state tournament went through the GRCC system.
What is just as impressive is that Jane has been JV coach for a jaw-dropping 34 seasons, 18 for the girls and 16 for the boys. Why so long? “Every year is different,” she says. “There may be some negatives but there is often a jewel. Many of these kids come with very little experience but you can’t beat their heart.”
Very little experience also characterizes Jane’s early years with regard to tennis. Growing up in an area where there wasn’t an opportunity, she didn’t play until Ramblewood, located up the street, opened. Her husband and two sons started; she followed. They played on a League Travel Team three times per week. Weekends in the summers were often spent at the park playing together as a family.
When Jane’s sons made the team at Catholic Central, Jane pitched in as a volunteer. She brought food, drove kids to matches (you could do that back then), and “did anything I was told by Pat.”
She didn’t consider expanding her contributions until her kids were gone. Then in the spring of 1996, she helped the JV coach with the boys and began with the girls that fall. Although GRCC has been blessed with a number of assistants, Jane has been a mainstay.
Over the years, she has had as many as 52 kids play for her in a single season. She has had to divide her group into three teams but sees to it that all get competitive experience in the OK Gold conference and, of course, other arrangements. She laments the Gender Equity ruling: She coached 14 boys last fall and 31 girls in the spring, acceptable by most standards but unusual in her considerable experience.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central offers Open Tennis two nights a week in the summer. “It’s a social event,” says Jane. “They (JV players) will come if their friends are there.”
“She is what I would call an old school coach,” says Charles Phelps of NorthPointe Christian/Forest Hills Central. “She loves her kids dearly but is a no funny business coach. She always has something clever to say about how the kids are a blessing and joy, but how they are also just a bit spoiled all at the same time.”
Charles coached against Jane on the JV level while at Grand Rapids Christian. “She has a way of looking through all that clutter and exploring the more authentic inner workings of the kid as a human and young adult,” he says.
“On more than one occasion, I expressed to Pat Williams that I wished I had such a dedicated and faithful assistant as she has in Jane,” says Erin Fouty, formerly coach at NorthPointe Christian. “She has been there every step of the way for a long time. Even when we would run summer events with some of their athletes joining ours, she would often be there on her own time just to watch and encourage. It’s amazing how many of these great programs are fortunate enough to have consistency in that all important position. Jane has provided that in spades for Pat and GRCC.”
“She’s a hoot to spend time with and we always end up laughing a lot when we get together,” continues Erin. “This award couldn’t have happened to a greater lady.”
Kevin McGuffie graduated as a two-sport athlete – basketball and tennis – from Fraser High School in 1999. He started playing tennis at Lee O’Byran’s (Hall of Fame, Class of 1995) summer camp just before his freshman year. He loved it so much that he helped out at the camp the following year. “That is where I started to develop my love for coaching and teaching,” he says.
Kevin played basketball for two years at Rochester College before returning to his alma mater to assist with the varsity basketball team. He became the head JV coach in 2005 but couldn’t stay away from the other game he loves. In 2008-2009, he started to assist varsity coach Greg Dalida.
Greg is grateful.
“Since earning his USPTA teaching certificate, Kevin has quickly used the knowledge that he has gained to better all tennis players at Fraser High School,” he says. “Every day, Kevin is able to bring a focused, determined effort to make all of our players better on the court. He is always trying new drills and new progressions, and modifying old drills to make them better.”
Greg also credits Kevin as a role model. “He is setting a great example of being a life-long learner and tennis player. He has attended as many teaching clinics as possible so that he can bring the information back to our program and help our kids reach the next level of their development. The clinics that he has been to thus far have resulted in numerous changes to our ‘standard’ practice plans. These changes have all been for the better for the level of play we see from the kids at all levels of our teams.”
Note the all levels reference. “On top of being responsible for the 26 girls that made our JV team this season, Kevin also was an active participant in every varsity practice and was at all varsity tournaments, coaching our team, says Greg. “His effort, dedication, and knowledge are shining examples of what great coaching and dedication looks like.”
“Just talking with him about tennis and how to teach a skill, you can hear and feel the passion he has for teaching the game,” says Greg. This enthusiasm extends to the summer. “He has played a major role in the development and implementation of a 10-under program for Warren Recreation Center that started up this past winter. He has plans to continue working with the 10-under in Warren as well as lend his wealth of knowledge to the Fraser recreation program and its 10-under program.”What Greg has in Kevin is an experienced coach in two sports who is passionate enough about tennis to pursue a career at Rochester Lifetime teaching the sport. He attends clinics and studies the game: how to play it and how to teach the playing of it. “Our teams are truly lucky to have a person as knowledgeable and dedicated as Coach McGuffie to be leading them on their tennis journeys,” says Greg.