Grinnell tennis players reunite to dedicate reconstructed tennis complex

Sept. 5, 2019 — In the 24 years since Wes Schrock ’99 began playing tennis for Grinnell College, the tennis program has evolved considerably.

“We barely had 10 guys on the team, now there’s 18,” Schrock said. “The facilities are nicer now. The team is considerably better. The culture, however, is the same. There’s a lot of camaraderie. Guys are clearly having fun. I think our group played a role in helping establish that culture, and it’s good to see it being continued.”

Schrock and a number of his former teammates were among the group of tennis and soccer alumni who returned to Grinnell for Fall Athletic Weekend. From Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, alumni attended and played in matches, interacted with current student-athletes and coaches, and caught up with teammates during events, meals, and receptions.

Group photo of alumni, staff, faculty, and friends who attended the Tennis Court Dedication in September 2019.
Student-athletes, tennis alumni and friends of the College gather for a group shot Sunday morning at the reconstructed tennis complex in Grinnell.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the dedication of Grinnell’s new tennis complex. More than 40 alumni, faculty, staff, families of current or former tennis players, and Grinnell community members raised nearly $300,000 for the tennis complex expansion and renovation project.

A project to expand the courts from six to eight and refurbish the facility wrapped up in late 2018. The courts, located just east of the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center, have drawn rave reviews since.

“The courts now are unbelievably good,” said J.R. Paulson, a Grinnell physician whose family named the Tennis for Life Court. “I’ve been playing tennis in Grinnell for 38 years and seen the courts evolve. It’s a wonderful resource for the community and the College.”

The sign at the Grinnell College Tennis Complex for its' dedication September 2019.
   A dedication sign is now in front of the
   tennis complex.

The Tennis for Life Court is one of five named courts at the complex. The donors for the project were honored at a reception Sunday at the Natatorium lobby. They also had a chance to speak before the tennis alumni matches earlier in the day.

Ten tennis players from 1999 to 2005 pooled their resources to name the court after their coach Andy Hamilton ‘85, who is now the College’s athletic director.

“Coach Hamilton has had an immeasurable impact on our lives and helped shape us during some formative years,” Schrock said.

After previously playing on the 10th Avenue outdoor courts and indoors in the Physical Education Complex (PEC), Grinnell opened an outdoor tennis complex of six courts in 2003. While the courts were initially sound, the complex did not hold up well over time. By utilizing engineering reports and consulting with different groups around campus, the College developed designs that should ensure the renovated facility can be used for 30-35 years, Hamilton said. 

The upgrades have been embraced by current student-athletes. Jack Lunn ’20 said everything looks fresh and nice.

“There’s a sense of pride for the program,” he said. “With the court dedication, you see the names of famous teammates who have come before you and guys you have come to know and respect. It’s a sense of motivation and it’s a cool way for our program to represent itself.”

Dedication Program

In their own words, donors to the tennis court explain why they named the tennis courts.

Daniel L. LaFountaine ’09 Memorial Court

Mike and Janna LaFountaine have named this court in loving memory of their son, Grinnell men’s tennis player Dan LaFountaine ’09, a Grinnell College Athletics Hall of Famer.

Dan was an intense competitor on and off the tennis court. He loved his family, friends, and his tennis teammates immensely. He was quirky, a bit nerdy, and physically very strong and would “argue/discuss” any topic of interest for hours to drive many a friend, colleague, professor, coach, and parent a little crazy! He really enjoyed hanging out with the tennis team, and being a member of the team was ultimately one of the greatest joys of his life. Yes, he loved to win, but more than anything he was proud to be a Grinnellian and a member of the men’s tennis family.

Mike and Janna are joined through the support and contributions of the following friends, teammates, and the members of the greater Grinnell tennis family whose lives have been meaningfully touched by Dan’s friendship, mentorship, and memory.

Contributors were Kushal Shah ’06, Eli Best ’07, Joe Jankolovits ’07, Eric Ohrn ’07, Nate Fox ’09, Juan Carlos Pérez Borja ’11, Alec Moore ’11, Eric Ritter ’12, Colin Johnson ’13, Daniel Nellis ’13, Ishan Bhadkamkar ’13, Ethan Ratliff-Crain ’15, Robert Storrick ’15, Charlie Wilhelm ’15, Penn Ritter and Robin Kipnis, Ralph and Emily Savarese, Bill Menner and Barb Trish, Andy ’85 and Sarah Parrish ’91 Hamilton, and three additional anonymous donors.

Coach Hamilton 10-S Court — Served to You, with Gratitude

The following members of Andy Hamilton’s early tennis teams have joined forces and contributions to name a court in honor of their influential coach. With this, they wish to recognize the significant impact Coach Hamilton made on their Grinnell experiences, as well as the strength of the Grinnell tennis program he built and lifelong connections he fostered among the Grinnell 10-S family.

Contributors were Collin Conoley ’99, Wes Schrock ’99, Seth Pourciau ’00, Mike Chang ’01, Pete DeKock ’01, Spencer Piston ’01, Dan Olson ’02, Ashfaqur Rahman ’02, Felipe Bautista ’02, and Brij Patnaik ’05.

“To us, this project is about much more than filling crooked cracks and repainting faded white lines. It’s about supporting a coach that molded us in ways that we can never truly repay. It’s about supporting a guide and mentor and superlative example of human being, who supported us every day, in every possible way, during the most formative of years. He coached us not only between points, but also on the finer points of life.

Coach Hamilton’s humor and worldview fused, seamlessly, with our own, creating a light and playful spirit that lives on in the team today. His smile, however, would turn instantly upside down the moment he observed too much levity seeping into our work, and woe upon the tennis squad who earned an infamous red-faced, top volume “motivational speech” and the seemingly endless laps around the courts. Coach Hamilton often joked, as most coaches probably do, that his true title should be “van driver.” And, while we all might have preferred a more comfortable mode of transportation, it was during the long drives, through cornfields and quaint Midwestern towns, that he would become reflective and talk about his life and family. He would ask us about ourselves and our goals, offering candid thoughts about possible post-college paths — much-needed advice for college students uncertain about what lay beyond the rolling Iowa hills.

This, put simply, is about supporting sacred space, this treasured place where we practiced and played, won and lost, but also laughed and cried and shared our lives — the place where we became 10-S family.”

Warch ’88 and Warden ’08 Court

Steve Warch ’88 and Alexandra Klass, together with DJ Warden ’08 and Erin Warden have named this court in honor of their families’ shared love of tennis, a game which originally was responsible for fostering an intergenerational Grinnellian connection between Steve and DJ. The two have teamed up as doubles partners on the tennis court and now are teammates in the legal world as well at a Minneapolis law firm. They hope Grinnell will continue to field strong teams and have a tennis program that connects student-athletes while they are in school and after.

Tennis for Life Court – J.R., Linda, Sean, and Mark Paulson

J.R. and Linda Paulson have named this tennis court in honor of their family’s shared lifelong connection to the game of tennis, and in recognition of the enjoyment that the College tennis courts provide to the entire Grinnell community, especially to the 6 a.m. group. A lifelong player, J.R. has joined friends, colleagues, and sportspersons for early-morning tennis as he starts his day with a dose of competition and wellness. His love for human connection through sport has been a foundation of his medical practice for three-plus decades in Grinnell.

Czarnecki Family Court

Edward and Bridget Czarnecki have named this court in recognition of their family’s shared enjoyment of tennis, and in honor of their son, former Grinnell men’s tennis player Elliott J. Czarnecki ’15.

“The Czarnecki family also includes Benjamin, Jenna, Samantha, Genet, and Mirtalem. Originally from Michigan, we now live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Elliott’s experiences on the Grinnell team inspired us to support the tennis complex. Our love for tennis originated from the kids’ grandfather, Edward (Sparky) Czarnecki.”

Additional donors to the project were Ralph Clayman ’69, Charles Adkins-Blanch ’84, Eric Eidsmoe ’84, Derek Vroom ’84, as well as additional anonymous donors.

—by Jeremy Shapiro

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