|Dr. Wayne Brenneman, North Muskegon|
|Paul DeWitt, Paw Paw|
|Audrey Shade, Grosse Ile|
An assistant girls coach under Joe Gentle for a decade, Wayne Brenneman has also taken upon himself the role of unofficial court maintenance person for the school tennis courts (which are, interestingly enough, not owned by the school but by the city). “I do the leaves and the snow some years,” he says, but also notes that they didn’t have these problems before the change of girls seasons. “One year, I used a snow thrower but this past March, the snow was so deep that I borrowed the school’s front end loader and had a blast as I had never used one before,” he says.
He does much more. “The most time consuming ridiculous maintenance item I have done is painting all the lines on the courts by hand,” he says. “First I taped both sides of the lines to be worked on that day and then used special white line paint from a tennis supply firm and a narrow roller I made myself. This after filling the cracks on the courts with the correct colored materials. After an away match at another local school’s courts – also not owned by that school but by a city park – I noticed the lines were almost invisible. I spent many weekends one summer painting the lines on their eight courts, having gotten permission from that city to do so.”
He can also play the game. Growing up in Oxford, Ohio (home of Miami University), he competed on his high school team as a junior and senior and then one year at Albion College. He continued playing throughout medical school, then joined a Grand Rapids indoor club during his residency at Butterworth Hospital. Once in Muskegon, he continued playing indoors during the school year and outdoors during the summer. He also taught both his daughters to play, one of whom won a state title at 1D for North Muskegon and the other, a runner-up in a singles flight.
“As you probably know, Joe Gentle is one of the most highly respected coaches in Michigan,” he says. “When we travel to out of town invitationals or the state finals, I am always impressed by the respect he commands by the other coaches in attendance.”
This is one of the reasons why Wayne has been a girls assistant long after his own kids graduated. He also gives free lessons to girls on the team in the off season. “My neighborhood has a court that I use frequently,” he says. “One of my neighbors was a girl who as a freshman was the 12th person on the team and after working with her on a weekly basis over the summers, by the time she was a senior she was playing two singles.”
Back in the day, Wayne won Albion College’s two-person volleyball tournament and then went on to play in beach leagues on the shores of Lake Michigan. His daughter became an excellent player (all state for three years, thus all state in two sports) and went on to play in college. During her high school years, Wayne took stats for the team and eventually was asked by the athletic director to become an assistant coach in that sport as well. “I go to all the practices in both sports as well as all the matches,” he says. He also gives free volleyball lessons and schedules open gyms. He is not paid for either sport.
How can a doctor spend all this time and not get called out for emergencies or phone calls, etc.? “My wife is also a doctor of internal medicine,” he says, “and being of the same specialty, she has graciously covered me over the years.”
“Dr. Brenneman has been an exceptional volunteer for the North Muskegon girls tennis team,”says Joe, an understatement if there ever was one. “He is everything that one could ask for in an assistant and more.”
Often enough, an assistant tennis coach is a parent – someone who has played the game all his life and thus, has volunteered to help out when his kid was playing on the high school squad. He enjoyed the experience so much --- and got so immersed in the program – that he stuck around to offer his valuable services, honed over the previous years. Or he is a former player on the high school’s varsity squad with much of the above applying.
Such is not the case of Paul DeWitt who did not play tennis as a youngster. An eighth grade U.S. history teacher and middle school basketball coach, he was recruited by varsity coach Matt Baleja. “A few seasons ago, Paw Paw had a strong and determined group of girls who had a chance of making the state tournament, which at the time had only been accomplished once before,” says Matt. “I approached Paul about volunteering as an assistant to the varsity team in order to get more one-on-one time with the players. While he does not come from a tennis background, he was eager to help with the conditioning and encouragement of the players. It was with his help and support that we did qualify for the state tournament that season.”
“Paul enjoyed his time with the team and the sport so much that he has become the JV/Assistant Varsity coach for both of our boys and girls programs,” continues Matt. “He has put countless hours into increasing his knowledge of the game -- including attending multiple MHSTeCA clinics-- and it is evident in his coaching. When he first started with the program, he would primarily discuss a player’s attitude and drive. However, now he and I trade without any reservations when it comes time to talk to players on changeovers and during pre and post match assessment. Paul’s knowledge of the game has increased to the point where he has no trouble recognizing and correcting areas which need attention in a player’s strategy and form.”
Paul also aids with the management of events, helps with the schedules, organizes quads and the conference tournament, and helps out in the summers. “He has become dedicated to a sport which just a few years ago he had no involvement or background in,” says Matt. “I firmly believe that without Paul’s dedication to the program, we would not have been blessed with our successes.”
Matt emphasizes Paul’s help with the summer programs which have doubled in size across the board. There are four sessions divided by age and ability level with approximately 100 campers participating. The sessions are two weeks in length with matches on Fridays. “This coincides with the JTT program which participates in matches on various weekdays against other JTT teams,” says Paul.
A direct result is that the girls high school team had the highest numbers in years this past season. The boys teams consistently field full varsity and JV squads when many area schools are losing both teams. “For a rural school with no club players, we have put ourselves into position to make the state finals twice in the past four years for the boys and girls,” Matt says. “Historically, each team only qualified once prior.”
Matt credits Paul with talking kids into playing tennis in the 8th grade. “He is able to persuade some to attend camp that summer, but the rest come out to the first practice without ever having picked up a racket,” he says. “Despite this, Paul is able to get them to enjoy the game, whether or not they can hit the ball during those first few days. Many of them have become skilled enough to contribute to the successes of the program.”
And for the record, Old Paw Paw, Charlie Maxwell, is still around. “His grandson played tennis for me last year,” says Paul. “He is still popular at signings, but most people don’t recognize him or know that he played for the Tigers.” Paul notes that he himself has a baseball signed by him.
A hockey player at Livonia Stevenson, Paul went to Western Michigan University, graduated with a teaching certificate in history, social studies, and English, and then spent the rest of the year long-term subbing. Getting a job in nearby Paw Paw where he has taught for the past seven years was the school system’s gain.
“You can find him on the court throughout the year playing for the fun of it with anyone who will come out,” concludes Matt. “I am very proud to have an assistant coach like Paul for our athletes to look up to.”
If they don’t already, Grosse Ile tennis players should pay close attention to Audrey Shade’s example. First of all, she is in shape. In 2007, she ran four marathons, including Boston, the Wimbledon of the event. She teaches spinning classes. She is a personal trainer.
Secondly, she can play tennis. She established the record (recently broken) for wins at No. 1 singles when she played the position all four years at Grosse Ile High School. She was, of course, all state. She then went on to play 1S for Cleveland State University for four more years.
Thirdly, she has abundant tennis teaching experience. She has worked at the River Oaks Racquet Club in Lakewood, Ohio; the Altadena Town and Country Club in Altadena, California; and the Travis Pointe Country Club in Saline, Michigan. She is a Professional Tennis Registry member and a Wilson Racquet Sports Advisory member. She is currently the head professional at the Grosse Ile Tennis Center
This is an amazing resume for an assistant tennis coach but not surprising given her genes. Audrey is the daughter of John Shade, who was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 1993. John was also inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012. He was the one who got Audrey playing “as soon as he could put a racket in my hand.” She started teaching at an early age as well, instructing the Pee Wees and helping out at the Grosse Ile Tennis Club.
As for the stint in high school, she also benefited from playing for her father, although it was a struggle at times. “We are two peas in a pod,” she says. “Too much alike. Needless to say, after coaching me, I think he had a few more gray hairs than he started with. We butted heads way more than I would like to say. Him yelling through the fence and my tears were a common sight. We laugh about this now.”
That’s why Audrey went to Cleveland State. “It was just far enough away to be independent,” she says. “And in Ohio, nobody knew my dad. I had to make it on my own.” She did, playing 4S and 2D her freshman and sophomore years and 1S and 1D her junior and senior years.
In other words, the Grosse Ile assistant coach is an experienced high school and college player with an abundance of teaching experience. She helped with both the boys and girls teams voluntarily from 2006 to 2008. In 2009, she was hired as the official JV coach for both teams. “I do all the hands-on stuff and the on-court work with most of the kids,” she says. “I am their private coach as well.”
As Head Tennis Professional, Audrey also works with kids from other schools. “Each and every one of these players admire her greatly,” says John. “She has a great rapport with Grosse Ile players and parents, as well as players and parents from competing schools. She was a significant part of Grosse Ile’s championship year of 2007 and runner-up year of 2010, as well as the years where qualifying for state was not an automatic.”
“Audrey is a great coach as well as player,” says Riverview’s Kim Edwards, herself an Assistant Coach of the Year (2009). “We grew up playing against one another on the courts of Downriver Racquet Club and now we are coaching against one another in the Huron League. When she brings her team to play Riverview, it’s always a fun match. Whether they win or lose, she coaches with class.”
Kim is the daughter of Hall of Famer Jan Gottlin (Class of 2009) who may be waiting in the wings to take over a solid and consistent program. In like manner, Audrey is the daughter of a Hall of Famer. “I am just waiting for the Old Man to retire,” she says. “I can see nothing more rewarding than following in my father’s footsteps.”