Varsity Kansas

Coaches are friendly enemies

Dave Hawley and Simon Norman should probably be bitter enemies.

After all, they coach two of the state's top boys and girls tennis programs — and they're 2 1/2 miles from each other.

At the Class 3-2-1A girls tournament, today and Saturday in Hays, Norman's Independent team and Hawley's Collegiate team will likely battle again for the championship.

Yet there's more respect than enmity.

"I enjoy Dave," Norman said. "It's a friendly rivalry. We know they will have a good program and we'll have a solid one."

Hawley added: "I tremendously respect the job that he does with his girls and boys.... I think he's a very, very good technician with great strategy ideas."

While Collegiate and Independent have been in different classes several times, they're both back in 3-2-1A.

This fall, Collegiate failed to win a sub-state or regional for the first time since 1985, but the Spartans and Independent are two of the favorites to win this weekend.

Collegiate's Elyse Bigler is the defending 3-2-1A singles champion, and Independent's Caroline Lincoln will be one of her top competitors.

In Hawley's tenure at Collegiate — boys for 31 seasons, girls for 27 — his teams have won 37 titles, including 19 in girls.

Norman, who has coached eight seasons at Independent and is Genesis Health Club's tennis director, has won five girls titles in the past six seasons.

"We always know that we'll have a fight on our hands," Norman said of playing Collegiate. "That's fine with me. Let's get out and play. If we lose and we put it out there, I know we lost to a good team."

Some might question Norman's and Hawley's true expertise because they coach at private schools that have historically produced talented players.

But that's not the only reason for the schools' success.

"I would give those two credit for knowing their stuff," Conway Springs coach Chris Bellar said."... I've watched them both interact with kids on a coaching basis, and they both do a really good job of motivating in their own way, pushing them to great things."

Hawley added: "Everybody assumes all of our kids are (taking lessons) at Genesis. Well, so are their kids. The good kids at Hesston take indoor lessons, and the good kids at Conway take offseason programs. It's a misnomer that we are the only ones who do that."

Norman and Hawley spend their offseasons working with their athletes, and Hawley talks fondly of coaching players he had in camps when they were 3.

Norman and Hawley haven't only made their marks on tennis because of their success or knowledge.

They've also built relationships with their players.

"He's the best coach ever," Lincoln said of Norman. "We always brag about him to all our other sports at our school because he's really cool. He doesn't yell at us, ever.... He makes practice a lot of fun."

Collegiate's Grace Cho had similar praise for Hawley.

"I would say he's probably one of the most loving people I've met," she said. "He cares about you not just as a player but as a person, also. On the court he focuses you individually... but outside of games and practice, he cares about you as a person."