Hein Makes Quick Rise to Top of NWC Coaching Ranks
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – It took John Hein, the women's tennis coach at Whitman College, very little time to rise to the top of the Northwest Conference coaching ranks.
Hein, now in this third season at Whitman, was named NWC Coach of the Year in April of 2010 after leading his young Missionaries to a surprising second-place finish at the annual post-season conference tournament.
After placing a strong third during the 2010 regular season, the Whitman women posted a big win in the semifinals of the post-season tournament, ousting the No. 2 seed. Hein & Co. then gave the top-seeded team a run for its money before dropping a close decision in the championship finals.
Whitman finished Hein's second season at the helm with an impressive 16-9 record.
Hein picked up a second honor in 2010 when the U.S. Tennis Association and Intercollegiate Tennis Association named him the Pacific Northwest Region winner of their Campus and Community Outreach Award. That honor goes to coaches who play a leadership role in promoting and organizing campus and community tennis programs.
Using a $700 USTA Community Development grant, Hein purchased Quickstart tennis equipment a year ago to help teach the sport to elementary school students. The Quickstart program, designed specifically for younger players, uses shorter racquets, lighter and larger tennis balls, and smaller, portable nets and court markers.
With the equipment in hand, Hein and several players from the Whitman women's and men's tennis teams give tennis lessons at two elementary schools in Walla Walla.
In his first two seasons at Whitman, Hein has led the Whitman women to a combined win-loss record of 31-18. His players have picked up three All-NWC First-Team awards.
His players have also exceled at the ITA's regional fall tournaments, winning two doubles crowns and one singles title. Whitman players advanced in both 2008 and 2010 to play at the annual Small College National Championships in Mobile, Ala.
Hein, who shared in a 1998 national championship as a player at the University of California-Santa Cruz, came to Whitman following a year-long stay in London, England, where he worked as a community outreach and talent identification coach.
Hein's coaching position in London was funded through Great Britain's Lawn Tennis Association, the national governing body for tennis. His duties ranged from providing weekly tennis lessons in primary schools to helping identify and direct the most talented young players to the High Performance Academy hosted by the Riverside Chiswick Health/Racquet Club in West London.
Hein, who played his prep tennis at Paradise (Calif.) High School, earned his bachelor's degree (with honors) in molecular, cellular and developmental biology at UC-Santa Cruz in 2000. He was an assistant coach with the UC-Santa Cruz women's tennis team from 1999 through 2003.
Hein completed his master's program in biological sciences (with distinction) at California State University-Chico in 2006, and then taught biology classes at both Cal State-Chico and Butte-Glenn Community College during the 2006-07 academic year.
"John is a young man of tremendous ability," Whitman athletic director Dean Snider said when Hein was hired in the late spring of 2008.
"He brings with him a championship attitude that was fostered during his time at UC-Santa Cruz, and we're confident he can help instill that same atmosphere here at Whitman. In addition, given his own track record of accomplishment on the academic side, we're also confident he can help mentor our student-athletes as they balance their academic and athletic experiences."
Hein, who competed as an NCAA Division III athlete at UC-Santa Cruz, says that coaching women's tennis within the context of Whitman's rigorous academic setting is his "dream job."
"I cannot overstate how thrilled I am to be part of the Whitman community," he says. "I am a firm believer in the Division III student-athlete concept, and I know from experience that you can have a great academic career alongside a great athletic career. These things do not, however, simultaneously occur without sacrifice, determination and talent.
"What I hope to bring to Whitman is the ability to build a championship program that is nationally competitive without sacrificing the outstanding academics, team unity and community service that are Whitman hallmarks.
"Whitman is an ideal place to build such a program. We have a solid group of returning players, great tennis and fitness facilities, and a supportive environment for students to grow both as people and as players."
Hein, who shared in a California regional doubles crown in high school, saw relatively little playing time with ultra-talented UC-Santa Cruz during its 1998 national championship run. In recognition of Hein's off-the-court contributions and ability to motivate more talented teammates, however, Hein became the first player in school history to receive a national championship ring without having played on the traveling squad.
Bob Hansen, who has coached the UC-Santa Cruz men's team to several national titles, says Hein was a "significant part" of the team success during the late 1990s.
"John was unparalleled in his focused, diligent, organized and conscientious approach to attaining his goals," Hansen says. "With sensitivity and compassion, insight and problem-solving ability, and with incredible powers of concentration, he was a great team member and leader. His will to succeed and ability to produce positive results in pressure situations has been an inspiration to all those who have had the privilege to be involved in our program."
Hein, who missed his junior season while studying at the University of British Columbia, then skipped his senior season to begin his assistant coaching duties with the women's tennis program at UC-Santa Cruz. "The women on the team thoroughly enjoyed his involvement as did head coach Dave Muldawer," Hansen recalls. "I was envious of the quality of his work, which inspired my assistant coaches to stretch, give and create more quality in their efforts."
Hein also played an integral role in youth tennis camps held at UC-Santa Cruz over a span of six summers, Hansen says. His leadership abilities "quickly distinguished John," Hansen adds, as he advanced to roles as head counselor, staff trainer and finally co-director.
After completing his undergraduate degree at UC-Santa Cruz, Hein worked part-time for three years as a post-graduate researcher and lab manager in the school's Department of Environmental Studies. From 2003 through 2007, he was the tennis program coordinator and coach for the Paradise Recreation and Park District, where he ran summer camps, created spring and fall clinics for juniors and adults, and ran spring clinics for aspiring and current high school players.