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Cornerstone men's tennis coach Austin Hendrick following in his father's footsteps

Son of Aquinas College Hall of Famer, Jerry Hendrick
Posted at 1:40 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 17:39:29-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Austin Hendrick grew up around the game of tennis.

"I had my brother, my dad and my sister who were all excellent players," Austin explained.

His father, Jerry, was the head men's tennis coach at Aquinas College until 2018 but instead of following him and his siblings, he opted to attend a rival school.

"His older siblings both ended up at Aquinas, but Austin wanted to go to Cornerstone," said Jerry Hendrick.

With his father coaching the Saints, Austin suited up for the Golden Eagles, which created quite a family rivalry on the day of those matches.

"I would go to all of the other matches and there are nine in college," Jerry explained, "I would do the other eight, but Austin's match, I would leave to my assistant coach. It was always a win, win when Aquinas won and Austin won."

And Austin grew up going to those men's tennis practices at Aquinas and competed against players he knew extremely well.

"I was playing really good friends and also playing my dad who was the coach," he smiled, "even though he wasn't on the court coaching against me, it was an added pressure of, 'I'm playing my dad's team.'"

Austin went on to break several tennis records at Cornerstone, including combined career wins in singles and doubles with 119.

Just months after graduation in 2018, he went from player to head coach of the university's men's tennis program.

"I know it isn't ideal for a player to go straight from being a member of the team to being the leader of the team, because you're coaching kids you played with," said Jerry about his son.

But now entering his third season as head coach, the 24-year-old Hendrick says coaching has gotten a lot easier, all thanks to help from his dad and the cooperation of his players.

"We're really happy to play this fall and be back out here, I'm really fond of the group of guys I have this year," Austin said.

Now the question becomes can Austin follow in his father's footsteps of spending 27 years as a head coach?

"That's a looong time," Austin laughed, "I don't know what I'll be doing in five years so we'll see, I take it year by year."

Jerry Hendrick helped lead the Saints to 16 NAIA national tournaments in his 27 year tenure and also sits in the Aquinas College Athletic Hall of Fame.

"I don't know, it's hard when you lump those 27 years together to predict that," Jerry smiled, "if you asked me in year two if I will do this for 27 years, I'd say no way."

As his tennis journey continues, Austin will continue to look up to his father both on and off of the tennis court.

"He's a role model," Austin said, "not just in tennis, but in life."