Since 1986, Chris Hoover has certainly shown how a group of excellent individuals can be molded into one, extraordinary team. He started his tenure at ISU in 1994 and has won the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year award four times. He has also led his team to five of the last eight Missouri Valley Conference championships.
Hoover and the Redbirds completed the 2008-09 season with an overall record of 14-10 and 6-4 in the Valley. The Redbirds placed third in the conference, making it the 12th time over Hoover’s 15 years, where the Redbirds have finished in the conference’s top three spots.
During the 2007-08 season, the Redbirds accumulated an overall record of 13-10 with a 7-3 MVC mark. On the academic front, the team set a school record for women’s team grade-point average (GPA) with a 3.66 in the fall of 2007 as well as the spring of 2008 and 2009.
Once again, Hoover led his team to another winning season during 2006-07 with a record of 13-9 overall and 7-3 in conference play. The team was also recognized by the NCAA for its perfect Academic Progress Rate (APR), and the team earned the highest GPA of all 10 sports at Illinois State, with a 3.4 in the fall of 2006.
The 2005-06 season was only more proof of how well Hoover leads his team. With an overall record of 14-7, and an 9-2 conference record, Hoover and the Redbirds won their fourth-consecutive Missouri Valley Conference title and fell just short of their fifth straight NCAA appearance. This moves the Redbird’s regular season championships to a record, five in total.
In the 2003-04 season, the ‘Birds dominated the Valley with a perfect 12-0 record for the third time, to win the regular-season crown outright. ISU then went on to earn first place in the conference tournament. The fall 2005 season saw the Redbirds earn seven Valley individual championships, proving that under Hoover’s guidance, championship seasons have become the attainable standard each women’s tennis squad strives to reach.
In the last 10 years, the Redbirds have posted perfect conference records in 2001, 2003, and 2004, each time winning the regular-season title outright, and going on to finish first in the Valley Tournament.
Under Hoover’s guidance, the duo of Alesia Mikalayeva and Liina Suurvarik competed in the doubles at the NCAA Championship in 2002, and Suurvarik competed in singles, where she was ranked 30th, at the NCAA Tournament in 2003. Mikalayeva and Suurvarik were also chosen to compete in the WTA State Farm Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and later won the ITA Omni Hotels Midwest Regional Championship and ranked 13th nationally, in both 2002 and 2003.
Another characteristic that contributes to his success is his meticulous recruiting style. He has recruited four of the last six Valley Freshmen of the Year, including Emilie Sechaud (2003), Laura Gravino (2002), Liina Suurvarik (2001) and Alesia Mikalayeva (2000). Hoover recruited and coached Suurvarik, who has graduated from ISU and went on to receive her MBA, started her professional tennis career in February 2005 and reached the rank of No. 599 in the world.
Hoover played an instrumental role in bringing legendary tennis coach, Nick Bolletteiri to the Evergreen Racquet Club prior to the start of the 2003 spring season. Bolletteiri has coached some of the world’s greatest tennis players, including Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Hoover and Bolletteiri worked side by side starting in 1992 and Hoover brought Bolletteiri to Central Illinois where he held clinics for both adults and juniors and worked closely with the Redbird tennis teams.
In 1996, Hoover started directing the Redbird summer tennis academy which has recently completed its 10th year. This May, 2007 will mark the eleventh successful summer of the academy.
From 1995-98, Hoover captained the Middle Illinois Junior Wrightman Cup team, which finished near the top each year, while winning the Sportsmanship Award in 1997. He has also raised over $100,000 to help the Illinois State women’s tennis program rise to regional national prominence.
In addition, Hoover contributes to the International Advisory Staff for Wilson Tennis, and has also conducted numerous tennis clinics abroad with the Professional Coaches Association (PCA).
In 1998, Hoover was a guest clinician and led a discussion panel at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Coaches Convention. His discussion focused on recruiting and fundraising, two aspects of college coaching he considers, "key ingredients to longevity in this business."
Hoover got his start in collegiate tennis as a walk-on for the Aggies of New Mexico State before receiving his bachelor’s degree at Missouri State. He started teaching tennis at the Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pa. Then he took a teaching position at the Forest Lake Tennis Club where he ‘caught the coaching bug.’ It was there that he established an elite traveling team of juniors in addition to guiding the USTA Volvo 2.5 women’s team, to the 1991 National Championship.
The Redbirds were familiar with Hoover long before he came to Illinois State in 1994, as he was an assistant at conference rival Creighton. While at Creighton, Hoover served as the assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Creighton head coach, Ed Hubb, received his first and only coach of the year award while Hoover was coaching with him. Also, in the time Hoover assisted at Creighton, both teams set numerous records including earning the highest conference standing for both men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Hoover and his wife, Susan, have two children: Addison, 23, and Kelsey, 19.