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How Dave Hawley became a coaching legend

The Kansas church elder is retiring after leading his high school tennis teams to dozens of state championships.

WICHITA, Kan. — A young history teacher coming from a small Nebraska school, Dave Hawley just needed a job when he accepted a position at Wichita Collegiate School in 1977 that included coaching boys tennis. He planned to stay three years before moving on.

Forty-six years, dozens of state championships and thousands of influenced lives later, the 70-year-old Hawley — a longtime elder of the East Point Church of Christ in Wichita — is considered a living legend not only at Collegiate but throughout the tennis community in Kansas.

Dave Hawley at the Wichita, Kan., tennis complex named in his honor. The East Point Church of Christ elder is retiring after coaching high school tennis for 46 years and winning dozens of state titles.

Dave Hawley at the Wichita, Kan., tennis complex named in his honor. The East Point Church of Christ elder is retiring after coaching high school tennis for 46 years and winning dozens of state titles.

“I had no background in (coaching) tennis,” he said, chuckling at the thought while sitting inside what’s known as the Dave Hawley Tennis Complex at Collegiate, a private school in northeast Wichita. “I had played it a lot (in college) but never had any designs to coach it. And here we are.”

Hawley’s high school coaching career ended in May when he retired after the Spartans’ boys team finished second in the Kansas Class 3-2-1A state tournament. It was a rare time when Hawley’s team didn’t win a state championship. Since 1985, when Kansas high schools began competing for team titles, Collegiate’s girls and boys teams have combined for 59 state titles in 76 opportunities, a remarkable 77.6 percent winning clip.

All that success has led to a slew of recognition. In 2005, officials at Collegiate surprised Hawley by naming the refurbished on-campus facility in his honor. He’s a member of the Collegiate Athletic Hall of Fame, York University Athletic Hall of Fame, York High School Hall of Fame, National High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Wichita Sports Hall of Fame, with other such inductions seemingly in his future.

Friends joke about his status as a “minor celebrity” in Wichita, as Hawley and his Collegiate teams often are in the news. Several old newspaper clippings of stories written about his teams through the years hang in Hawley’s office at the Collegiate complex.

“They say you’ve got to be a great person before you can be a great coach or a great player, and he’s got that part of it down. He’s firmly rooted in his beliefs, in his views on the world and religion, and he works.”

Hawley insists all the fuss is overblown, but those touched by his work, both at Collegiate and East Point, tell another story.

“I don’t know if Dave’s got a secret — I think it’s just more about who he is as a person,” said Mitch Fiegel, the athletic director at Collegiate and a good friend of Hawley. “They say you’ve got to be a great person before you can be a great coach or a great player, and he’s got that part of it down. He’s firmly rooted in his beliefs, in his views on the world and religion, and he works.”

‘Nothing short of amazing’

Fiegel said Hawley’s longevity as a coach “is a testament to his ability to just really persevere, as much as anything. In his own quiet way, he’s been very tenacious. It’s nothing short of amazing.”

Amazing is a good way to describe Hawley’s coaching accomplishments. For example, those 59 combined state titles are more than double the amount won by the next-most-successful Kansas prep tennis program. He’s arguably the most successful high school coach in Kansas history, in any sport.

The National Federation of State High School Associations does not keep records on the number of state championships won by individual coaches by sport. But Bruce Howard, the director of publications and communications for the NFHS, said the 33 state girls tennis championships (in 38 possible opportunities under Hawley) by Collegiate rank second all-time nationally, and the 26 boys state tennis titles rank sixth all-time in those respective sports.

“I realize that I’m a lot of a product of an incredibly special set of circumstances that not everybody gets, and I totally own that,” Hawley said.


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From New York to Nebraska’s York

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., as the son of a minister who was part of a church plant in the late 1940s, Hawley grew up in York, Neb., staying there from second grade through two years at what then was known as York College. (To this day, he claims York as home and remains a passionate fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.)

After winning a Nebraska state doubles title and a team title at York High School, Hawley played junior-college tennis and basketball at YC before transferring to Harding University in Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in Bible and played two more seasons of tennis — all of which foreshadowed his eventual career path.

Dave Hawley has coached both boys and girls tennis teams at Wichita Collegiate School.

Dave Hawley has coached both boys and girls tennis teams at Wichita Collegiate School.

Hawley went through graduation ceremonies at Harding and got married to Sally Kritz during the same week in May 1975. Not long after, he landed a job as a teacher and varsity boys basketball coach in tiny Campbell, Neb.

“I never planned to coach,” Hawley said. “Not one time when I was at York or Harding did I think coaching was going to be in my future. In fact, the only reason I did it early on is because I could not get a job. The history market was flooded. In order to get a job, I had to go to a (small) town, and I had to agree to coach.”

In Campbell, though, Hawley learned a lesson: “I really kind of liked coaching, and I found out that if I worked hard at it, I could be reasonable.”

‘No way am I getting this job’

Looking to move south (Sally is from south-central Kansas), Hawley learned of a job at Collegiate through a relative’s friend. Collegiate was looking for someone with a unique combination of skills — a middle-school history teacher who also could teach Bible classes and coach boys tennis. Hawley thought he bombed in the job interview.

“Sally came and picked me up,” Hawley said, “and I’ll never forget, I said, ‘Sal, take a look back at this, because this is the last time you’ll ever see this place, because there is no way I am getting this job. No way.’”

Two nights later, the Collegiate headmaster called and offered Hawley the job.

Ever since, Hawley has taught seventh-grade U.S. history — in fact, he’ll keep teaching that class and coaching middle-school tennis, even as he steps aside from coaching the high school teams. (“I am in the perfect spot, age-wise, in the classroom,” he said. “I am a seventh-grader at heart. I relate well to them.”) Along the way, he became the Spartans’ girls tennis coach in 1982 and also spent two stints totaling 16 seasons as the girls basketball coach.

Hawley will continue teaching seventh-grade history and coaching middle-school tennis even after stepping back from high school coaching.

Hawley will continue teaching seventh-grade history and coaching middle-school tennis even after stepping back from high school coaching.

About the time he began his career at Collegiate, Dave and Sally also placed membership at what then was known as Elpyco Church of Christ, where he almost immediately began teaching preteen and youth classes (including a few that included this writer).

As the congregation moved from a site in southeast Wichita into far northeast Wichita and changed its name to East Point Church of Christ, the Hawleys have remained while raising their children, Zach, Meagan and Ben. Dave became an elder in 2004 and now serves in that position with his younger brother, Scott.

“The thing that sticks out the most to me about Dave is that he and Sally are leaving a legacy of faith. All you have to do is look at their kids and the lives they’re leading. That doesn’t happen on accident.”

“He lights up a room, and he’s funny and caring,” said Michael Jones, East Point’s preaching minister. “In those elders’ meetings, in the interview process, I remember Dave. He was very relaxed and makes you feel comfortable. He has a great personality. I would say the thing that sticks out the most to me about Dave is that he and Sally are leaving a legacy of faith. All you have to do is look at their kids and the lives they’re leading. That doesn’t happen on accident. That’s evidence of how they brought up their kids in the faith.”

Zach, Meagan and Ben all played tennis for their father, with Zach (later a basketball player at Oklahoma Christian University) winning two individual state titles and Ben capturing three. Dave Hawley says coaching his children ranks as the highlight of his career.

“He’s spent his years building a program, solid players and a tennis culture that is unrivaled, but if you ask those who’ve played for him they’ll tell you what he’s built in them had little to do with tennis,” Meagan Hawley wrote on Facebook.

“With rules like ‘socks first, then shoes’ and ‘we don’t date boys who treat us badly,’ we always knew that he cared way more about us as people than he ever did as players. It sounds so cliché and yet every word is true. He loves deeply and leaves people and programs better than he found them. I’m unbelievably proud and thankful he’s mine.”

‘The man is magnetic’

Collegiate joined the Kansas State High School Activities Association in 1984, and Dave Hawley soon was asked to be on a committee of tennis coaches that offered suggestions to the KSHSAA. He asked about adding a team component to state tournaments in tennis, and with the 1985-86 academic year, it happened.

The hardest part of any season for Hawley — and something he says he won’t miss — is when he had to select the limited group of players that would represent the Spartans during postseason events. His no-cut policy — combined with his ebullient personality and Collegiate’s tennis tradition – led to large team sizes, and the talent level often made those decisions excruciating.

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His former players and coaches at Collegiate remain fiercely loyal to him.

“The man is magnetic,” Josh Glaser, a four-year Collegiate player who later spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach, said on Facebook. “When he’s in a room people are drawn to him. When they come back all his players have to come see him. Once you’ve coached for him you can’t quit no matter how hard you try.

“He is a great example of his faith, but perhaps the most impressive thing about him is he always cares. State-championship match or 15th-place match in Hillsboro, he always cares. (A) varsity state title contender or the worst kid on the team, he always cares. Player, former player, or former player turned coach, he always cares! The tennis world will miss that immensely!”

“He is a great example of his faith, but perhaps the most impressive thing about him is he always cares. State-championship match or 15th-place match in Hillsboro, he always cares. … The tennis world will miss that immensely!”

In addition to continuing teaching and coaching at the middle-school level, Hawley plans to spend much of his free time going forward traveling to watch his grandchildren — some living in Kansas, some in Oklahoma — compete in sports and/or participate in other activities.

He’ll also, no doubt, still spend plenty of time at what he refers to as the “Collegiate courts,” eschewing their official name. He’ll keep giving private lessons and — only if asked — will offer his successor any assistance that person might want. There’s little doubt that his tennis legacy, both at Collegiate and in Kansas, will last for many years to come.

“It’s a beautiful complex over there,” Fiegel said of the tennis center across the parking lot from his office. “When I look at that complex over there, every time I look at it, I just think, this didn’t just happen. It was built by a guy. Some others helped build it, but he built it. He’s the cornerstone of everything that’s ever happened in this school’s history in tennis. It all started with him first. End of story.”

MURRAY EVANS is an award-winning sportswriter with decades of experience for The Associated Press, The Oklahoman and other publications.

Filed under: coaching legend Dave Hawley East Point Church of Christ Features high school tennis Kansas National People Top Stories Wichita Wichita Collegiate School York University

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