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Putting down the racquet

Every once in a while a coach comes along that is truly special.
Not only does he want to direct, encourage and teach your kids; he wants to stay.
New opportunities may manifest themselves, temptation may call, but they remain committed.
For 30 years Chris Hoffman has done just that for Lincolton High School.
In those three decades he’s coached nearly every sport, but the one his name has become synonymous with is tennis.
For 27 years Hoffman coached the men’s tennis team at Lincolnton High School and for 17 years he directed the women’s tennis program.
His teams have won eight conference championships and Hoffman has had 20 entries to the state championships, including Charlie King’s state runner-up finish in 1994.
Out of all the accomplishments Hoffman is satisfied most by one thing.
“Seeing kids out in the community and they still say, ‘Hey Coach.’ That makes it a lot worthwhile,” he said.
In being a ‘lifer,’ everything has come full-circle.
He points to a former softball player, Marni Carpenter and her daughter Anna Gray as an example—Hoffman coached them both.
“Coaching the kids of some of my former players makes it real interesting.”
For Hoffman, a Lincolnton High School graduate himself, it was all about giving back.
Former athletic director and local legend Von Ray Harris gave him his first shot at coaching in the spring of 1975.
“Von Ray gave me an opportunity, sort of resurrected the softball program, then went to volleyball,” Hoffman recalls.
Hoffman dabbled in softball, volleyball and even won conference championships in 1981 and 1983 in men’s basketball, before going on to a stellar high school tennis coaching career.
Current Wolves’ Athletic Director Scott Cloninger believes the fact Hoffman has done all this at his alma mater makes it more special.
“I always think when you can hire somebody that’s been with you; it means a whole lot,” Cloninger said.
“He’s been here all of his life and he’s a very good tennis coach,” Cloninger said. “We hated to lose him, but he retired from teaching a couple of years ago (2003), and he’s decided to become full-time retired now and we’re truly going to miss him,” he added.
It won’t be easy for his successor to fill his large shoes.
What has been, perhaps, more special than any of Hoffman’s accomplishments has been the humility, class and dedication he’s demonstrated to the kids and game alike during his tenure.
Phil Ayers is the leading candidate to take over the tennis program.

Looking back
Hoffman first got involved coaching little league baseball when he was 16 years old at the recreation department.
“I blame the coaching job on Betty Ross. She had us coaching little league. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
Hoffman, an East Carolina alumnus, has always had a special place in his heart for Lincolnton, but so have some other LHS graduates.
He points to the fact Scott Cloninger, Jeff Cloninger, Craig Kiser and Cole Sigmon all are former Wolves.
“You have a feel for the community and it becomes kind of like a family at Lincolnton High School.”
Some of Hoffman’s most prominent memories was the 1985 men’s tennis team that went 16-0, then in the 3A classification.
He also fondly remembers the 1999 team, led by Michael and Brian Dedmond.
It’s not just the men that have created awesome memories for Hoffman; the women have also gotten into the act.
“The past four years of girl’s tennis have been incredible,” Hoffman said, adding that Andrea Stroup and Shawn Kindley both have taken their game to the collegiate level.
Von Ray Harris, Richard Smith and Cloninger all taught Hoffman a great deal as athletic directors.
John and Betty Hoffman, his parents, and a couple of former sports editors also mean a lot to Hoffman.
“My parents for getting me this far. Smack Procter and Mike Powell did a good job of teaching me the importance of reporting,” he said.
A Forest Gump-like coaching career deserves a Cinderella-like ending, but that’s not always how life works out.
In Hoffman’s final coaching gig the men’s tennis team went 0-10.
Although, he didn’t get his fairy tale ending; he’s happy to have had the blessing of enjoying the journey.
“It’s been great. Winning and losing is not the only thing you look at. That (0-10) did not influence the decision. I had planned on retiring at the end this year before that happened.”
“I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of good people in our community—the kids, parents and the recreation department have all made my job easier.”—A quote from Chris Hoffman.
by John Mark Brooks

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