ELIDA—After teaching in the district for over 40 years and being a tennis coach for 36 of those years, Elida named the tennis courts for Dennis Schwinnen on Saturday.
Schwinnen coached boys tennis for 36 years and compiled a record of 455-167 and he also coached girls tennis for 13 years with a record of 111-97.
“This was a total surprise to me and I’m very humbled and honored,” Schwinnen said.
When Schwinnen arrived at Elida, there was no tennis team. Tennis was beginning to become popular in America in the early 1970s and in 1974, Elida had its first tennis team.
“Back in 1974, there were two courts that were black on black,” Schwinnen said. “We went from the Northwest Conference to the Western Buckeye League in 1974 and we had our first tennis team. We had a tennis club after school and had a lot of interest from the students. Then the athletic director at the time, Dick Prince, let me start an official team in 74, when the Ohio High School Athletic Association approved it.”
During his 36 years as a high school coach, Schwinnen had 83 district qualifiers, 12 of whom qualified for the state tournament. He also had two doubles teams win state. Pierre Panguay and Mike Fraley teamed up to win the 1979 title and Landon Neuman and Jayson Hilborn won in 2005.
“Every coach’s and every player’s dream is to make it to state,” Schwinnen said. “It was a dream to get there and then we were fortunate enough to win a state championship was a thrill.”
Even though Schwinnen had 566 career victories between boys and girls, he mentioned his success was because of the great players that he was fortunate enough to be able to coach.
“Our kids always did tournaments in the summer, which is a training ground for high school tennis,” Schwinnen said. “Ron Dredge of Orchard Hill deserves a lot of credit. He coached a lot of my players in the summer and he had a lot of good teams.”
Being able to coach great players was an amazing experience for Schwinnen, but coaching three specific players might have been even more special for him.
“I actually got to coach all three of my kids,” Schwinnen said. Chris who graduated in 1997, Sara graduated in 2000 and Rob graduated in 2003. I didn’t even ask them to come out. They just wanted to and it was great to be able to coach them.”
Schwinnen was able to see how much he touched the lives of his former players after word got out on social media of the courts being named after him.
“They surprised me and put it on Facebook,” Schwinnen said. “I got to see comments from former players, which was really neat. A big thanks goes out to Dave May and Dave Evans for having this happen.”
Growing up and going to Delphos St. John’s, Schwinnen was never able to play high school tennis because there was no team when he was there. He always had interest in the sport and while majoring in education at the Ohio State University, whenever he had to take a physical education class, Schwinnen always took a tennis class. He also got a lot of experience when he went to clinics, where he would try to pick up new drills.
“One thing I always ask my kids (former players) is if they are still playing tennis,” Schwinnen said. “Tennis is a lifetime sport. If you get the kids to enjoy it while they’re young, they can enjoy it the rest of their life. You also get to meet some great people.”