Collegiate tennis coach leaves legacy far beyond 59 championships

After 46 years, Wichita Collegiate Tennis Coach Dave Hawley is retiring.
Updated: May. 16, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Max Wheeler was scheduled to walk in his college graduation Saturday in Liberty, Missouri. But when the opportunity to support his high school tennis coach came up, he wasn’t sure how much he cared to flip his tassel.

It’s that sort of legacy that those who have played for Dave Hawley during his 46 years at Collegiate say he leaves behind.

“I had a serious talk with my parents about skipping my graduation to come back for Coach Hawley’s last tournament,” said Wheeler, who was part of the 50th team title at Collegiate. “It was a lot closer than it should’ve been, but I sadly went to graduation. I would’ve much rather been at that last tournament.”

Hawley coached the Spartans for the last time during Saturday’s KSHSAA 3-1A State Tennis Championships, officially heading into retirement after 59 team titles - 33 by the Collegiate girls, and 26 by the boys. He has coached another 82 championships in singles and doubles.

When he took the job in 1977, he didn’t put a focus on winning championships.

“A culture grew up that we really wanna be known for, and that’s that we want kids to play tennis whether that ends in a championship or not,” Hawley said. “The championships are great, I’m not gonna lie about that, but it’s the wanting to represent, wanting to do their very best. Even if we won one and still built a culture that said, this is what we wanna be, that would’ve been OK, that would’ve been fine.”

As much as he defers to players, they admit how much they wanted to play for Hawley. Jessica Ball Dibble won three state championships during her time, then later went on to coach against and for Hawley.

“Players have to make a choice to want to work hard for you, to want to work hard for your program, to be a team leader, to practice hard,” Ball Dibble said. “The players here want to do that because of Coach Hawley, because of the program he’s created here. The thing with Coach Hawley is a lot of people think he gets these success players, but the thing is talent doesn’t just bring you wins. Players want to work for him, they want to work for Collegiate, and they want to represent their team well.”

Sallie Lair recalls the team locking up a state championship on Day 1 of her senior year in 2018 and enjoying a memorable car ride home that evening with her team.

“He was just so proud of all of us, and that was something I always remember because we all wanted to do so well for him,” she said.

Hawley spoke at Ball Dibble’s wedding and hopes to even officiate a wedding between former players in the near future. Wheeler said he wants Hawley at his wedding some day and recalls his coaching style.

“Sometimes he’ll just sit in his chair on the fence, let you go on your way,” Wheeler said. “When he says something, you listen because he’s been watching, he’s been observing. When he speaks, you listen and take it to heart.”

Hawley has been vocal with Collegiate officials about bringing in the right hire to continue what he’s helped build. He will stay on to coach the middle school team for one more year, helping ease the transition for his successor. But he thinks whoever is next in line has a chance to continue to elevate the program.

“I want the person after me to be way better than me. I want them to have the same love of what we do here, to be really part of what drives them as well,” Hawley said. “I want what comes later to be better, 100%.

“I would hope that all our players through the years have been just blessed by saying, OK, this is what responsibility looks like, this is what commitment to an idea or a program looks like and really kinda go with that. If it ends in wins, it ends in wins.”