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VANDALIA – For the first time since 1995, the Vandalia tennis program will have a new coach when the girls begin the season in August.
Citing family reasons, Kevin Schroeder has resigned as coach of the team after 18 seasons.
“I am getting out of it because (my youngest son) Alec is in high school sports, and when (my oldest son) Christian was in high school, I never really got to see him,” Schroeder said. “I missed at least three-fourths of his soccer matches and baseball games.”
Schroeder will be coaching his 33rd year of junior high track this spring.
In his tennis coaching career, Schroeder led five teams to South Central Conference championships in the early 2000s, and went to Chicago for the state tournament with two doubles teams.
Most importantly, however, he helped many girls become competitive tennis players, even if they hadn’t picked up a racket prior to their freshman year.
“I’ve had a lot of good student-athletes who really worked hard and tried to do what they were supposed to do to prove themselves,” Schroeder said. “I always liked to get girls as freshman and watch them improve each year.
“They may have struggled early, but if they stuck it out, they would win some matches and see that their work was worthwhile.”
Schroeder took over the program from his wife, Kim, after being her assistant in 1993 and 1994.
Since then, he has guided a program that has grown from fewer than 10 girls participating to one that has seen around 15-25 participants each of the past 10 years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed doing the tennis coaching,” Schroeder said. “It really is a lot of fun to coach high school athletes and be at the events to see the students perform.”
A 1975 graduate of Altamont High School, Schroeder didn’t have an opportunity to play tennis at the high school level, but he still entered many local tournaments in the '70s, and played recreational doubles with his wife when they first got married.
While in college at Eastern Illinois University, the junior high math teacher minored in physical education and made sure to include several coaching courses in his schedule.
He said his desire to become a coach was cultivated while he was in high school, but he always felt he would coach the smaller, more individual-based sports, as opposed to team sports such as basketball or baseball.
That’s exactly what happened, and in his sixth season at the helm, he watched as Lauren Adermann and Jessie Benton placed third at the Effingham Sectional to qualify for the state tournament.
Five seasons later, Josie Earnest and Dana Kirk gave him another state-caliber doubles team.
During those six seasons was when Vandalia won the five SCC championships – the one year missing was 2002.
Schroeder said the girls who played in that era had an ability to consistently win close matches – including several conference championship matches.
And as he steps aside, the tennis team may be ushering in a new era of standout players.
Freshman Hannah Blythe was the team’s No. 1 player this past season, and Schroeder sees a lot of potential in several of the other freshman and sophomores currently on the team.
“There are some pretty good players, even though it’s a young team,” Schroeder said. “You have Karlee Brimberry coming back as a senior with the group, and there’s potentially a strong team (next year).”