Chad Fenwick looks like he should be on a football field rather than a tennis court.
Not so many years ago, the sturdily built 1994 Dixon High School graduate stepped away from tennis to give football another crack. He wound up starting at defensive tackle at the University of Dubuque (Iowa).
“It’s kind of a strange combination,” Fenwick said. “I haven’t run into too many guys that played on the defensive line and also played collegiate tennis. It’s kind of a funny and unique story.
“I don’t look like a tennis coach. I get that a lot. We have some guys doing some construction on our indoor tennis center in Clinton [Iowa], and they asked, ‘Are you the tennis coach?’ I said, ‘Oddly enough, I am.’ I joke that I grew out of my tennis body a few years ago.”
Since, Fenwick has stepped back into tennis in a big way, and is currently the men’s and women’s head coach at Ashford University in Clinton, a position he’s held for the past 3 years.
He was recently named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s NAIA Central Region women’s head coach of the year.
His brother Mike, a 2000 Dixon grad, has followed in his big brother’s tennis shoes, and just completed his third year as the women’s assistant coach at Penn State University. Mike was recently named the ITA NCAA Division I Atlantic Region women’s assistant coach of the year.
After a college playing career at Sauk Valley and Illinois Valley community colleges, and Quincy University, Mike began his coaching career. He was a graduate assistant at Western Illinois University, then a volunteer assistant at Baylor, a perennial power, before joining Penn State.
Mike dreams of someday being the head coach at the Division I level.
“I think every coach’s goal is to be a head coach,” he said. “It’s just preparing yourself until you feel ready to be at that point.”
Chad could also see himself coaching at the Division I level.
“For the right situation, I think I would,” he said. “I’m pretty grounded to this area. I like living close to family, but I would be interested in moving that direction if the opportunity would arise. That level of competition does intrigue me.”
Mike is amazed how far the sport of tennis has taken him.
“It can start anywhere,” he said. “We’re at the Dixon Park District courts now, and that’s where it all started for me.”
Chad’s college playing career included 2 years of tennis at Mount St. Clare College (now Ashford University) before his stint back on the gridiron at Dubuque.
After college, he worked at the Dubuque YMCA for a few years before becoming a college coach. He built Upper Iowa University’s program from scratch, and was there for 4 years before joining Ashford.
The brothers credit Dixon tennis matriarch Emma Hubbs for much of their love of the game.
“I got a great start from Emma,” Chad said. “She’s been like a grandmother to me, and all of us. I try to have that element of that closeness that she has with her players.”
“Emma is a great coach for all of us to look at,” Mike said. “Just her longevity in the sport. It’s fantastic what she’s done and how much fun she brings to the game. Starting here with her helped develop my passion for the game.”
Penn State has had some nightmarish events to deal with in recent years, with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“It’s of course a terrible situation, but Penn State is still a great university,” Mike said.
Is it a harder sell to recruits now?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m thrilled and honored to be a coach at Penn State. It’s a fantastic place.”
• 1994 Dixon High School graduate
• Played tennis at Mount St. Clare College (now Ashford University) in Clinton, Iowa
• Played defensive tackle on the football team at the University of Dubuque (Iowa)
• Current men’s and women’s tennis head coach at Ashford
• 2000 Dixon High School graduate
• Played college tennis at Sauk Valley and Illinois Valley Community College, and Quincy University
• College coaching stops at Western Illinois, Baylor University and Penn State University