New tennis courts welcome Hononegah students - public too
Hononegah Community High School's tennis teams have hit eight fresh new courts and are the first to try them out.
Dave Berg, director of buildings and grounds, explained the process it took to create the courts. “Planning the building of the courts started almost a year ago,” Berg said.
Scandroli Construction built the courts, which took a total of three months. The first step was excavating and grading. The floor base is made out of asphalt, complete with a top coat of sealant. Celebrating one of HCHS's colors is a purple floor with a green background.
“The courts were done on schedule and on budget,” superintendent Mike Dugan said. “We stayed true to the footprint of the plans... All of the other local schools are going to the six court option,” Dugan said.
New tennis coach John Torrence brings a lifetime of experience to the courts. “I have played tennis all my life. I played for Rockford West,” Torrence said. Last year the Rockford Register Star named him the ninth greatest tennis player in Rockford area history. Only seven local high school players have won a state singles medal in tennis - he placed fifth in state in 1972. Later, Torrence was the singles champion - nine times, eight in a row - in what was once known as the Rockford City tennis tournament.
Torrence went on to play at the University of Virginia. There he earned a No. 7 singles spot as a freshman. After graduating from Virginia, Torrence was hired to teach and play in Germany, spending time in Bundesliga, the No. 1 tennis league in Germany.
Torrence went on to earn a MBA from the University of Michigan in 1982. This led him to opening his own business broker firm, Torrence Enterprises in 1985.
Torrence was named Volunteer of the Month by the Northern Illinois Tennis Association in September 2017. He has taught professionally at clubs and is the current 'head pro' at HCHS.
Hononegah is going to turn 100 this year. At one time HCHS had 10 courts. In more recent years the school had two, which is now a parking lot.
HCHS decided to build the eight courts at the beginning of the pandemic and had projected a price of $100,000 less than the original amount budgeted. At a buildings and grounds meeting, school officials made comparisons to 16 different schools. The committee and administration asked if this would benefit the community.
HCHS has a total of 33 tennis players on various teams who have priority to use the courts, followed by physical education classes. When time allows, the public will be allowed to use the courts as well.
“Some of the benefits that these courts bring is that it can handle a lot more girls; the goal is to have all of the players on the court; we have a ton of new and beginners. We will take the time that is needed to spend with the girls,” Torrence said.
He adds, “I would love to see schools like Hononegah give a new opportunity to first-time players who are brand new to a team, or ninth graders to be part of a program which would give them extra support.”
Additionally Torrence hopes that lessons can be given, opening the courts as needed, spending a certain amount of hours in the day. “Like any sport, this creates the biggest pyramid and this type of practice develops top athletes.”
"Last year," he said,"the boys team was playing at another school and they mispronounced our school name. We want to be known as Hononegah - it is imperative.”
Alex Kadamian, a former HCHS varsity tennis player, is the assistant tennis coach, bringing with him an advanced experience and knowledge. “He is a super guy and he really cares about the kids,” Torrence said.
Torrence points out extra lines on the courts. “These lines have been added to open the playing of pickleball - it is a growing sport,” Torrence said. “We hope to benefit the community with the pickleball courts.”
Pickleball is said to be a simple sport to play. It is a game that resembles tennis where players use paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It can be played indoors or outdoors. The game combines aspects of tennis, table tennis (ping pong) and badminton.
All of the courts are fenced in. Windscreens will be put up and bleachers are on order to make the area complete. A new storage building is also in the works.
With these new courts, options have expanded for HCHS teams, physical education classes and the public.