Joining inner circle: Local tennis coach gets hall call

Rusty Hughes was a late arrival to the sport of tennis, both as a player and a coach.

Once he started, though, Hughes never stopped — and now, three decades into his coaching career, the Franklin mainstay is receiving the highest of honors.

On Friday evening, Hughes will be inducted into the Indiana High School Tennis Hall of Fame, the 10th player or coach with Johnson County ties to earn that distinction.

“There’s a lot of really good people in the Hall of Fame, so to be included in that group is a great honor,” Hughes said.

Amazingly, Hughes never played tennis until the summer before his senior year of high school, but the 1970 Franklin graduate played one season for the Grizzly Cubs and then went on to star at Vincennes University, where he was the team’s most valuable player as a senior.

He continued to play competitively in area tournaments, but Hughes didn’t pick up the coaching bug until he was in his 30s.

Once he did, he jumped in with both feet — Hughes is now in his 30th year as the girls coach at Franklin High School, and he’s also in his 29th at Franklin College, where he coaches the men’s and women’s teams.

This spring’s edition of the Grizzly Cubs will be Hughes’ 77th team.

When asked about his most memorable moments as a coach, Hughes noted that he has had several teams and players achieve notable accomplishments — particularly in 1994, when the Franklin High School doubles team of Katie Bennett and Staci Morrow marched all the way to a state championship.

In all, he’s racked up more than 500 dual-match wins at Franklin College and over 300 more at the high school level. For Hughes, though, coaching has always been about more important things than winning.

“Mainly, it’s just been watching kids develop,” he said. “To me, the most satisfying part is just watching people get better at a sport that I love, and seeing how I can make a difference in their lives.”

The induction ceremony will have even more of a Johnson County flavor. The evening’s keynote speaker will be Greenwood High School graduate Kent Kinnear, who currently serves as the USTA’s national director of player development.

Kinnear was an All-American at Clemson University and enjoyed an 11-year pro career on the ATP Tour, playing in 38 Grand Slam tournaments and competing in 50 different countries.

If you go

Indiana High School Tennis Hall of Fame

2017 induction dinner and ceremony

When: Friday

Where: Holiday Inn Indianapolis North, 9797 N. Michigan Rd., Carmel

Dinner reservations are $30. There will be a social hour beginning at 6:15 p.m., followed by dinner and the induction ceremony.

For more information, contact Tim Cleland at or 765-730-3288.

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.