Often, the relationship between mother and daughter gets tense during the youngster’s teenage years as cultures clash. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with regard to Hall of Famer Jan Gottlin and her daughter Kim. “She is one of a kind,” says Kim of her mom. “Through the years she has given of herself and sacrificed family dinners, vacations, and time spent at the cottage so she could coach and encourage her players to challenge themselves. Growing up with her coaching meant that ever season I became a part of the team. I would watch the players stop by the house and talk or just say hello. Through the years, I never heard her complain about an upcoming season, practice, or tournament.”
Kim was a four-year varsity player at Riverview who played for her mom, something that many coaches say is not easy to do. Throughout her varsity career, she was an All Huron team member. She played 1S and then went on to captain the Henry Ford Community College Women’s tennis team. When the HFCC tennis program was cancelled, she transferred to Hillsdale College and played there for three years, two of them as co-captain.
In other words, her leadership skills were on display both in high school and college. More to the point, she got along with her mother so well that she would not only play for her but also go on to coach alongside her. She has been an assistant coach at Riverview for seven years (14 seasons).
“One of Kim first goals when she joined the RCHS coaching staff was to instill in her players a sense of belonging as a member of the junior varsity tennis team,” says Jan. “She organizes a team barbeque at the start of each season and plans several team bonding activities for the players. The number of new and returning tennis players that come out each year at Riverview is a result of Kim’s hard work.”
“Riverview Community High School tennis is a ‘No-Cut’ program,” continues Jan. “The junior varsity teams are quite large. Kim is very organized. Her practices are fun, informative and able to safely manage a big team. She creates drills and skill games that target the diverse group of junior varsity program.”
Kim also assists the varsity program by attending Saturday tournaments. She manages a site at the Huron League Meet. Whenever Riverview hosts a regional, she is a site director. She runs a week-long camp at the beginning of the summer and created “Drop ‘n Hit,” a Wednesday night free tennis mixer that local players participate in. She is also one of the Downriver Area Summer Tennis Camp coaches.
“Kim is a role model and mentor to RCHS tennis players,” says Jan. They respect her accomplishments as a former Riverview and strive to do it the ‘Pirate Way.’”
Like mother, like daughter? Jan’s accomplishments were acknowledged last year when she was inducted into the MHSTeCA Hall of Fame. It is time to recognize Kim’s contributions.
“Tony Fuller has been a stalwart of the program since I became the head coach, and whatever success we have had as a program, he has been an integral part of,” says last year’s Division 4 Coach of the Year Ron Landfair. “I can safely say that nothing we have achieved would have been possible without him.”
That’s quite a statement, considering the success that Lansing Catholic’s players have enjoyed. Over the past 7 years, the Cougars have compiled an 84-14-6 record which translates to a winning percentage of 77%. They have captured the Capital Area Conference championship five times, have been regional champions four times, and regional runners-up three times. This means that they have qualified for state competition each and every year. Their state tournament finishes in either Division 3 or 4 have always been in the top ten. During the past two campaigns, they finished 3rd (fall of ’07) and 2nd (fall of ’08).
This past season was, by their high standards, a bit of a setback in that the Cougars did not win a regular season title, tournament, or post-season championship. Yet both both Tony and Ron have described it as one of their best seasons ever. Finishing 3rd in the tough CAAC White Division, they still qualified for the State Finals at the regional tournament, finishing 3rd there with 21 points. They went on to finish a respectable 7th in the state. And they accomplished this with a regional and finals lineup consisting of eight first-time ever varsity players, continuing an unbroken streak of eight state qualifying runs and Top Ten finishes since Tony and Ron began coaching together in 2003.
“Our program’s success is predicated on player development, and not necessarily on brilliant individual freshman talent,” says Ron. “With Tony’s help, we have developed nine young men from our junior varsity program who have gone on to win ten individual flight state titles (one a dual winner). His knowledge of singles and doubles strategies, techniques, fundamentals, and skill development have been critical in the elevation of our program. Tony works diligently with our players both during the season and off season as well, in individual and three-player workouts. He strings rackets, regrips handles, assists in putting up nets and windscreens, and helping out whenever and wherever he can.”
Tony’s expertise comes from his experiences at his alma mater and beyond. He played for the Cougars from 1992 to1994. The team qualified for state all three years, the best finish being 7th in 1994. Tony then took his skills to Lake Superior State University where he played from 1994-98. In his senior year, he played 3S and 1D, and won the team’s Most Valuable Player award.
A police officer for the City of East Lansing, Tony has spent five of his seven years of involvement with the boys program as an unpaid assistant, according to Ron. “He has my complete trust and confidence. He is my sounding board for player, team, and administrative issues related to the team and has functioned many times as head coach in my absence.”“With the amount of youth that got varsity experience this year, Ron and I are both very excited about the future of Lansing Catholic Tennis,” says Tony. But another reason the Cougars should be excited about next season and beyond is that they are coached by both a varsity coach of the year and an assistant coach of the year.
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When Michael Holets came to Berrien Center four years ago to fill the position of Executive Director of Five Pines Ministries, he would take his 1st and 6th grade daughters to Berrien Springs High School courts. When Coach Rick Fedoruk , MHSTeCA Division 4 Coach of the Year in 2007, learned about Michael’s tennis background, he asked him to come to a practice and give a lesson on different types of serves. This demonstration, plus the inspiration of watching a kid trying with great determination to make the team against all odds, turned into a volunteer position as assistant coach.
On several levels, Rick struck gold. Having hit balls against a garage door at age 13 in Abilene, Texas, Rick played for DeSoto High School, a 4A school located in a bedroom community near Dallas after the family moved there. “Tennis in Texas is a year-long season,” he says. “We would play as much as we could, with my life consisting of nothing but school, work, and tennis. After my sophomore year, doubles became my passion, and I played No. 1 doubles my junior and senior years. In 1980 I was district runner-up, won regional 3rd place, and was a state alternate.”
Nine years later, Michael picked up a racket again and became a tennis pro at Thorntree Country Club. He became a certified tennis professional and after a couple of years, was promoted to Head Tennis Professional. During the five years that he was there, he played in the Tennis Competitors of Dallas tennis team league and the open/championship level, played regional pro/ams, and in tournaments where his doubles partner was Ken McMillan, a former tour pro. He also coached two Women’s Tennis Competitors of Dallas tennis teams.
Thus, what Rick got as a volunteer was a highly skilled and experienced player who was more than qualified to be a high school varsity tennis coach. But Michael came to the area to oversee camp ministry. Five Pines offers eight weeks of summer day camp to children and youth in grades K-8th and leadership development for area high school and college students. It offers a retreat wilderness camping trips and a retreat center hosting up to 80 guests.
But, euphemistically speaking, Michael in his spare time is on the courts at Berrien Springs. “He raises the standard for success both on and off the court and in the classroom,” says Rick Because of this, the tennis team has been selected by the MHSTeCA as all All-State Academic Team for the past four seasons.”
But Michael’s influence goes beyond keeping kids on track academically. “I have watched him commit countless hours to developing our doubles teams,” says Rick. “It is because of his efforts that we have had a solid team effort and have won consecutive and regional championships in 2007 and 2008. This past fall, the team posted a 10-1-2 record. They were again conference and regional champions. It was their fourth straight appearance at the state finals, finishing 13th.”
Rick knows that he has been blessed with is a highly skilled tennis professional whose values transcend wining and losing. “He has brought strong leadership and positive values to our team,” he says. “His enthusiasm is contagious. Hard work, sportsmanship, and sound ethics are preached. Every player is valued and earns his place on the squad.”
“When the dust settles and the days of tennis have come and gone, what will kids remember?” says Michael. “The adventure of it all. That they have become better people through the process. That teamwork and character mean something. This is why I volunteer. This is why I coach.”Amen.
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