Kendal Hammel has won over 800 games and countless coaching awards, but ask just about anyone about Columbus North’s boys and girls tennis coach and they’ll tell you he has the character that’s right for you.
“What a wonderful mentor he is to the kids,” said Christine Sanders, whose five children have all completed Hammel’s program at North. “That’s something you look for as a coach – someone you can look up to – and Kendal is really that person. I have always respected him as a coach and as a person.”
On February 4, Hammel gets some credit for his success in nearly three decades in the coaching ranks. He will be inducted into the Indiana High School Tennis Hall of Fame at Plum Creek Golf Club in Carmel.
Hammel will be one of the five inductees. The others are former state champion of Carmel and reigning US Open Doubles champion Rajeev Ram, four-time IHSAA girls’ singles champion, Katie Martzolf Carroll of Park Tudor, South Bend St. Joseph boys’ coach Steve Bender and three-time IHSAA girls’ state doubles champion Sandra Gyorgyi from South Bend Adams.
“It’s really a great honor,” Hammel said. “When I started coaching years ago, I never expected this. Little did I know that I would be teaching for so many years and that I would last. But to be recognized by my peers in the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association is an honor.”
A Huntington North graduate, Hammel played tennis at Anderson University for four years. He began his professional career as general manager, director of tennis and head pro at Southwood Racquet Club in Anderson. He then attended Indiana University Tennis Center, where he coached for two years at Bloomington North High School.
Hammel is now in his 27th year with Tipton Lakes Athletic Club and Columbus North.
“With this journey I’ve been on, there are so many people who influenced me to get to this point,” Hammel said. “When I came to work at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club, I was fortunate enough to have an owner (Vern Jorck) who encouraged me to take a coaching position in high school. Once I was in Columbus North High School I had good sports directors who really respected me and supported me with Hedy George and Jeff Hester and now Brian Lewis. I have had the support of the athletics department.”
Hammel also cited the support of his wife Cindy, who was one of his assistant coaches for a number of years, and assistant coaches Robin Cain, Anthony Sanders and Allie (Smith) Luken. Cain has been an assistant boys’ coach for most of Hammel’s tenure with the Bull Dogs.
“Robin Cain has been on the boys’ team for years,” Hammel said. “I couldn’t get much done without the things Robin has done for me. I call him my IT guy. If I needed anything, I went to him.”
Sanders and Luken played for Hammel at North. Luken, who later went on to play at Indianapolis University, is one of three siblings who play for Hammel in North and then play in college.
“Kendal has been my coach for a long time, even before high school tennis in all the clinics in Tipton Lakes,” said Luken. “He gave me and my brother and sister private lessons, and he’s just someone who will always be there, that consistent coach. He has had a positive influence on the team to this day. Every day he will put in 100 percent effort, which is a bit rare. He is always enthusiastic, always has a plan, always makes every exercise worthwhile. I think that makes him stand out as someone who always radiates that enthusiasm and commitment and wants to make every player the best they can be.”
Hammel was director of tennis and head pro during his time at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club. He has been a United States Professional Tennis Association instructor for over 40 years and is a certified USPTA Elite Professional I. He has held various roles as a national and Midwest tournament director, pro shop owner, and racket stringer.
“Being with the club all these years as a director and now head of professional, I’ve been around a lot of these kids at clinics and classes all the time and have been able to watch them grow up as young adults,” Hammel said. “That is also very satisfying.”
In addition to his accolades as a high school coach, Hammel was named USPTA Midwest Division Indiana Professional of the Year in 2010 and 2019 and received a Jack Cramer Ideals of Athletic Competition Award in 2016.
Now he can add “Hall of Fame” to his resume.
“I would say it’s well deserved because he stands out as a coach,” said Christine Sanders. “He’s just so hands-on with kids, so loved, so respected across the state and a very successful and dedicated coach. All my kids loved playing for him and loved the camaraderie he brought to the team. I’m just really happy that this is happening for him.”
Hammel has a career record of 844-336 as a boys and girls high school coach. Nine of his Bull Dog teams have made it to the state tournament. Seven singles players and six doubles teams have competed in the state finals, with one individual state singles champion (Caroline Hedrick).
A 14-time Conference Indiana Coach of the Year and eight-time IHSTeCA District Coach of the Year, Hammel was named Boys’ Tennis State Coach of the Year in 2006 and Girls’ Tennis in 2010 and was the National Federation of High Schools Indiana Boys Tennis Coach of the United States. year 2018-19.
“My record is as good as the players I’ve had on the teams,” Hammel said. “I have been blessed over the years. I’ve had so many families tell me they appreciate what I’ve done. I’ve had so many families with three, four, five kids who play tennis with me. I liked having them as part of the Bull Dog tennis program.
“There are hundreds of people and thousands of players around who gave me this honor today,” he added. “A lot of people are involved in the success I have had as a coach. She and the players really make this possible as far as I’m concerned.”