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High School Tennis

For Hall of Fame inductee Tim McQuown, tennis isn't a sport -- it's a way of life

  • 20190412McQuownHOF-jpg

    Tim McQuown is the 2019 Al Thomas Award winner for all he does to help take care of Medina's tennis facility.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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Call Tim McQuown in the late morning and he will probably be sweeping the Medina High tennis courts. Phone him in the afternoon and he’ll likely be serving as an unpaid assistant with the girls or boys program. Try to reach him at night and there’s a good chance he will be playing for one of his four United States Tennis Association teams.

The 62-year-old McQuown, who will be inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame on June 13 at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth as the recipient of the Al Thomas Award, given annually to someone who contributes to high school sports in a non-coaching or non-playing manner, doesn’t just love tennis, he eats, sleeps and breathes it.

This is especially true when it comes to helping others enjoy the sport, particularly youngsters.

“He is the most incredible man ever, and he’s totally selfless,” Medina boys coach Alison Snook said. “The amount of time he spends at the courts is unbelievable. He is completely and entirely devoted.”

This has been going on for 21 years now, but McQuown has never asked for any money, credit or attention in return. And it extends beyond Medina, as McQuown was an avid supporter of former Cloverleaf stars Ethan, Jacob and Emily Dunbar, still takes in some Highland matches each year and often shows up at sectional or district tournaments and offers to help in any way he can.

“He is such a big part of our program, but it goes past that to all programs,” Medina girls coach Pete Hoffmann said. “The biggest thing with Tim is it’s all about the kids. He’ll do whatever it takes. He just does so much. We’d be lost without him, to be honest.”

Those kids, many of whom are now adults, are fully aware of everything McQuown has done and continues to do, especially at Medina.

“Tim’s the heart and soul of that program,” former Bees assistant Chad Schmock said. “He does everything behind the scenes that no one talks about. It’s so much easier to run a program when you have someone like him around.”

One day, McQuown might cut the grass around the 12 courts at Medina High. The next, he might be blowing away leaves. Need a racket re-gripped or someone to hit with? He’ll do that, too, no questions asked.

“What’s so wonderful about Tim is his passion and talent for tennis, plus his ability to cheerlead and inspire others,” said 2006 Medina High graduate Jamie (Schofield) Hilfer, who now lives in Cincinnati and works in clinical research for rare diseases. “He believes in every single tennis player that comes through and helps them recognize their potential.”

Not only does McQuown work for free, he has repeatedly refused a supplemental contract as an assistant coach, telling administrators to give that money to someone younger who actually played high school or college tennis and has coaching experience.

On top of that, he spends thousands of dollars each year to provide scholarships and other amenities to Medina players, but he will never mention any of that unless his right arm — his tennis-playing arm — is severely twisted.

“He’s a very funny man and very sarcastic, but he’s also one of the nicest people I know,” 2017 Medina grad Becca Liebler said. “He’s very humble. We wanted to do a lot for him because we appreciated everything he did for us.

“He didn’t do it for money or because he wanted an award, he did it because that’s who he is.”

Ad-out, deuce, ad-in

McQuown graduated from Brunswick in 1974, before the Blue Devils had a tennis program and before he fell in love with the game. He was a wrestler in those days and earned all-county honors as a junior 155-pounder.

His home life was far from perfect. McQuown’s mother left the family when he was 11 years old and he didn’t see her again until he was 20. His dad turned to drinking, and eventually McQuown started doing so as well.

One night after his junior year, McQuown drank, got behind the wheel, was speeding badly and lost control of his car, which police later told him sailed 90 feet in the air before striking a tree about five feet above the ground.

McQuown escaped with a bunch of bumps and bruises and two lost teeth.

“I was lucky,” he said. “It was one of those moments where you’re screwing up and you know you need to change your life. That’s kind of why I try to give back. Probably 99.9 percent of the kids on the tennis team are great students, but you never know.”

Only 17 when he graduated from Brunswick, McQuown entered the Air Force in November 1974 and worked second shift in the cargo office while stationed in Dover, Del.

It was there that he started playing table tennis, which led to taking up tennis on one of the two courts located behind the barracks. One was equipped with a wooden wall on the back fence, against which McQuown hit thousands and thousands of balls while learning the game on his own.

“I bought a five-dollar wooden racket,” he said with a hearty laugh, “and the rest is history.”

One day while on leave, McQuown went to the home of a fellow serviceman, located in Smokey Junction, Tenn., about an hour north of Knoxville.

“It’s basically 15 or 20 houses on a road through the hills,” McQuown said.

There weren’t many people, but one of them was named Sylvia Goodman, the sister of his fellow serviceman. They met, fell in love and got married in 1976. They stayed that way for 33½ years, until Sylvia died of uterine cancer on March 6, 2010 at the age of 51.

“It’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to go through,” said Schmock, a 2002 Cloverleaf grad who now works as a staffing specialist for a jewelry company. “He got even more involved in Medina tennis because he didn’t have that time with her.

“They would play tennis together every day. I still believe they logged more hours on court than anyone in Washington Court (Athletic Club) history.”

A natural athlete, Sylvia picked up the game quickly while she and McQuown lived with her brother and his wife for the remainder of McQuown’s four-year stint in the Air Force.

Upon being discharged, McQuown got a job with Tru-Fit Products, which came with a free membership to now-defunct Washington Court, though the couple still had to pay a court time fee. They played all the time during McQuown’s eight years with the company, and that continued when he spent five years working for the sanitation department in Medina and 18 years with the water department.

Along the way, they also started attending Medina High tennis matches. Not just one or two, either. All of them, home and road.

“I remember turning to (former Medina coach) Jeff (Ameer) and saying, ‘Who are those two? Whose parents are they?’” Hoffmann said. “Jeff explained to me that they just loved tennis and wanted to be here supporting the kids.”

Perfect match

After Sylvia died, idle time was not McQuown’s friend, so he devoted even more time to tennis, particularly with the Medina programs. He and his wife never had any children of their own, but these were their kids.

“I just do it,” he said simply, “because when Sylvia passed away, it made me feel good.”

McQuown then told of how his wife’s cancer had spread to her back, making it increasingly difficult for her to walk and eventually necessitating surgery. Before and after that surgery, though, she always accompanied her husband to Washington Court.

“The people at Washington Court, the staff and front desk, they were so nice to Sylvia,” McQuown said. “She wanted me to keep playing tennis. At first, she walked two miles while I played. Then a mile. Then it got too painful and she would just watch.”

After Sylvia’s death, McQuown spent even more time at Washington Court, his home away from home.

“All my friends were from Washington Court, so I went there every day,” he said. “They used to laugh because I’d sleep on the couch by the fire place in the snack room. It was so nice. I closed out the club every night and took all the towels out of the locker room.”

Around the same time, McQuown started working on setting up a Medina High scholarship in Sylvia’s name, to be given to a senior who had played tennis at the school. The first year, it wasn’t officially set up in time, so he simply wrote a check for $1,000 and gave it to Whitney Reichheld as a graduation gift. The following year, there were six senior girls on the team, so each got $1,000.

In 2012, a senior boy and girl each got $1,000. The next year, it was changed to two boys and two girls, a practice that continues to this day. The recipients are chosen by the head coaches from a $60,000 fund set up by McQuown, who contributes more money when needed.

“It was a life saver,” McQuown said of tennis. “If I didn’t have that …”

His voice trailed off at that point, but he regrouped when asked what he might say during his five-minute speech at the hall of fame banquet.

“I do it to help out my mental health and feel like I’m contributing to society,” he said of all the hours he contributes at Medina. “I try to be a positive role model to the kids.

“A speech? I’ll make it 2½ minutes. My massage lady’s husband is a comedian. I’m going to hire him to make everybody laugh, then I’ll say, ‘Thank you very much.’”

In reality, it is the coaches and athletes that McQuown has helped who should be saying thanks to the quiet, unassuming man who has done so much without ever asking for anything in return.

And, make no mistake, they know it.

“He’s the most wonderful guy,” Liebler said. “He has dedicated so much of his time to Medina tennis. He was always out there when no one else was. He takes such care of the courts. He was always there, and he didn’t do any of this for pay.”

Or recognition, but McQuown is finally getting that now.

After Cincinnati resident Hilfer was interviewed for this story, one of the first things she did was call the man who does so much for so many.

“He’s one of the most selfless people that I know,” she said. “He shies away from attention. He would be much more comfortable investing himself in the betterment of others. I hope this award shows him that those he was cheering on were actually his biggest cheerleaders.

“I grew up with both (of the McQuowns). I’m sure Sylvia would be incredibly proud of him and will be looking down watching.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
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