Kendal Hammel has won more than 800 matches and numerous coaching honors, but ask just about anyone about the Columbus North boys and girls tennis coach, and they’ll tell you he has the character to match.
“What a great mentor he is for a the kids,” said Christine Sanders, whose five kids all have come through 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 Feb. 4, Hammel will get some due 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 five inductees. The others are former state champion from Carmel and reigning U.S. Open Doubles champion Rajeev Ram, four-time IHSAA girls state singles champion Katie Martzolf Carroll from 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 first started coaching years ago, I never envisioned this. I didn’t know I was going to be teaching this many years and that I’d stick with it. But to be recognized by my peers in the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association is an honor.”
A Huntington North graduate, Hammel played four years of tennis at Anderson University. He began his professional career as a general manager, director of tennis and head pro at Southwood Racquet Club in Anderson. He then moved on to the Indiana University Tennis Center, and while there, coached at Bloomington North High School for two years.
Hammel now is in his 27th year at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club and at Columbus North.
“With this journey that I’ve been taking, there’s so many people that have influenced me getting to this point,” Hammel said. “When I came to work at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club, I was fortunate to have an owner (Vern Jorck) that was encouraging me to take a high school coaching position. Then once I got into Columbus North High School, I had good athletic directors that really respected me and supported me with Hedy George and Jeff Hester and now Brian Lewis. I’ve had the support of the athletic department.”
Hammel also mentioned the support of his wife Cindy, who was one of his assistant coaches for several years, and assistant coaches Robin Cain, Anthony Sanders and Allie (Smith) Luken. Cain has been a boys assistant coach for most of Hammel’s tenure with the Bull Dogs.
“Robin Cain has been with the boys team for years and years now,” Hammel said. “I couldn’t get a lot done if not for the things that Robin has done for me. I call him my I.T. guy. Whenever I needed something done, I went to him.”
Sanders and Luken played for Hammel at North. Luken, who went on to play at University of Indianapolis, is one of three siblings to play for Hammel at North and then go on to play in college.
“Kendal has been my coach for a long time, even before high school tennis at all the clinics at Tipton Lakes,” Luken said. “He also gave me and also my brother and sister private lessons, and he’s just somebody that would always be there, that consistent coach. Still to this day, he’s been a positive influence on the team. Every day, he’s going to put in his 100 percent effort, which is kind of rare. He’s always enthusiastic, always has a plan, always makes every practice worth it. I think that’s what makes him stand out as someone always putting out that enthusiasm and effort and wanting to make every player the best they can be.”
Hammel has been 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 more than 40 years and is a certified USPTA Elite Professional I. He has had several roles as a national and Midwest tournament director, pro shop owner and racquet stringer.
“Being at the club for all of these years as director at one time and head professional now, I’m around a lot of these kids all the time at clinics and lessons and have been able to watch them grow up as young adults,” Hammel said. “That’s very satisfying, too.”
In addition to his high school coaching honors, Hammel was named USPTA Midwest Division Indiana Professional of the Year in 2010 and 2019 and was a Jack Cramer Ideals of Athletic Competition Award recipient in 2016.
Now, he can add “Hall of Fame” to his resume.
“I would say that it’s well deserved because he stands out as a coach,” Christine Sanders said. “He’s just so hands-on with kids, so well-liked, so well-respected throughout the state and a very successful and dedicated coach. All of my kids loved playing for him and loved the whole camaraderie that he brought to the team. I’m just thrilled 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 reached the state tournament. Seven singles players and six doubles teams have competed in the state finals, with one individual singles state champion (Caroline Hedrick).
A 14-time Conference Indiana Coach of the Year and eight-time IHSTeCA District Coach of the Year, Hammel was named state Coach of the Year for boys tennis in 2006 and for girls tennis in 2010 and was the National Federation of High Schools Indiana Boys Tennis Coach of the Year in 2018-19.
“My record is only as good as the players I’ve had on the teams,” Hammel said. “I’ve been blessed throughout the years. I’ve had so many families that have told me they’ve appreciated what I’ve done. I’ve had so many families that have had three, four, five kids be involved in tennis with me. I’ve enjoyed having them as part of the Bull Dog tennis program.
“There are hundreds of people and thousands of players around who have gotten me to this honor today,” he added. “There’s a lot of people involved in the success I’ve had as a coach. It’s them and the players that are really making this happen, as far as I’m concerned.”