Hodges-Head Tennis Coach (Georgia Gwinnett)
Georgia Gwinnett Team Page
If you look at the facts, you could very well consider Chase Hodges as the best tennis coach in the history of collegiate tennis. If you don’t agree with this first sentence, then I highly encourage you to continue reading this article and study the facts. Although Hodges would modestly disagree, he has achieved all of his head coaching success the hard way by winning at schools (Longwood, UNC Asheville, Drake, Georgia State, Georgia Gwinnett) that typically had not seen much success prior to his arrival. In some of these cases, the programs did not even have sufficient scholarship funding. Hodges has never taken a job where he has inherited a winning program from the previous season. He creates successful programs and loves a challenge of developing a winning culture. Currently, he is the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Georgia Gwinnett College. For the record, these programs did not exist before Hodges. He has started them from the ground up as the college began competing in intercollegiate athletics in 2012. If Hodges was a college football or basketball coach, then he would be a household name across the United States. The fact that collegiate tennis is not a mainstream sport has allowed his accolades to become “under the radar" to the general public and even the college tennis community itself. On January 29th, 2014, the Grizzlies of Georgia Gwinnett College broke into the national rankings on both the men’s and women’s side. On this day, Hodges broke his previous national record of leading five programs to a national ranking. Hodges has now led seven college tennis programs to a national ranking. Yes, that is correct. Seven! This is a feat that no other coach in college tennis history has ever accomplished and there is a strong possibility that this may NEVER be duplicated again. The most impressive part of this story is the programs that he has led to national prominence. Six of the seven programs had never earned a national ranking prior to the arrival of Chase Hodges. Hodges is the only coach in the history of college tennis to lead six programs to their “first ever” national rankings. The only program that had received a national ranking was Georgia State University. It is important to point out that when Hodges arrived at Georgia State, the Panthers had the longest losing streak in college tennis history with 37 straight losses. Here is a breakdown of the schools that Hodges has led to national prominence:
2002 Longwood University Women’s Tennis- program had never been nationally ranked before the arrival of Hodges and has since never been ranked.
2003 and 2004 UNC Asheville Men’s Tennis- Hodges inherited a losing program and took them to their first national ranking in 2003 and 2004. The program has never regained a national ranking since his departure.
2004 UNC Asheville Women’s Tennis- Hodges inherited a losing program and led them to a national ranking. The program has never regained a national ranking.
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Drake Men’s Tennis- Hodges inherited a program that experienced a losing record prior to his arrival. In 2006, he led the Bulldogs to their first national ranking and maintained it in 2007, 2008, and 2009. His 2007-08 team went undefeated at 24-0 in the regular season. Since his departure, Drake has maintained their ranking as one of the top programs in college tennis.
2011 and 2012 Georgia State Men’s Tennis- inherited a program that had lost 37 straight matches and guided them to national rankings in 2011 and 2012. The program has maintained their national ranking to date.
2014 Georgia Gwinnett College Men’s Tennis- program played their first collegiate match in February of 2013 and gained a national ranking only a year later in 2014. The program is currently ranked #5 in the nation.
2014 Georgia Gwinnett College Women’s Tennis- program played their first collegiate match in February of 2013 and gained a national ranking only a year later in 2014. The program is currently ranked #20 in the nation.
In addition to the accolades above, Hodges holds the distinction of leading the biggest turnaround in college tennis history. He guided Georgia State to a record of 15-6 in 2010 after inheriting a program that had lost 37 regular season matches in a row. He led Drake University to a national record 42 consecutive regular season wins as well as a record 47 straight home wins in his tenure with the Bulldogs. He is a 4-time conference coach of the year and posts an overall record of 267-95.
Hodges has made a living by taking over programs that have had little success and turning them into winners. I had an opportunity to sit down with Hodges and ask a few questions on his coaching career. When chatting with Hodges, the irony is that he does not have any degree of arrogance in regards to his accomplishments. His personality is one of a guy that makes him very easy to like. I guess the best word to describe him is “laid back and very approachable.” He has an engaging personality and I’m sure that anyone who knows him would agree. Although it is only 2014, I envision a great amount of further success is on the horizon for Hodges and can see his name enshrined in the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame one day. Here is a breakdown of that conversation:
ATT: I’m making the claim that you could very well be the best collegiate tennis coach in the history of the game. What are your thoughts on that?
CH: Wow, I definitely would not go to that extreme. I would have to disagree with you on this one. There are a ton of great coaches out there. I’m just doing the best that I can to make Georgia Gwinnett College as good as we can possibly be.
ATT: How do you feel about breaking your previous ITA record?
CH: Obviously, all of my previous and current student-athletes are responsible for this award. Without them, this would not be possible. I’ve been very fortunate to surround myself with great people throughout my career.
ATT: In your mind, what is your greatest accomplishment?
CH: Well, that’s an easy question. My greatest accomplishment is being a father to my six year old daughter, Gabby. I feel that there is nothing that can compare to being a dad. As a singIe father, I’m grateful for every second that I share with my daughter and truly appreciate having her in my life. I know that I’m extremely biased but I feel she is the best little girl in the entire world (smiling). I’m a much better person because of Gabriella Hodges.
ATT: What is your greatest coaching accomplishment?
CH: That’s a tough one to answer. My hope is to capture a national championship here at GGC. If we can, I think that will be near the top. I think the national rankings earned with the seven programs were all special. The 42 straight wins at Drake and undefeated regular season was a ton of fun. The most fulfilling may have to be turning the Georgia State program around because there were just so many challenges in my first year there. All in all, it’s difficult to just single one out.
ATT: With your coaching resume, why do you seem to always coach at schools that seem to have little to no success before your arrival?
CH: I love a challenge. I don’t see the challenge in going somewhere that has always won. I’ve been placed in some situations where nobody thought we could win. All of those situations have made me a better coach. I get enjoyment out of proving people wrong. I feel that all of my teams have played with a chip on their shoulder. I coach with a chip on my shoulder because I don’t know any other way to coach. I remember at UNC Asheville when my men’s team was ranked on just 2.5 scholarships. It is nothing magical that I have done. I simply have been able to recruit great student-athletes that buy into my coaching system. My system is relatively simple.
ATT: What is your coaching system?
CH: It is pretty simple and made up of three words, “Expect to Win.” I feel that all of my players expect to win instead of hoping to win. There is a huge difference in the two. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to establish a winning culture everywhere. It should be noted that winning in the classroom and graduating players is the ultimate goal. I’m most proud when I see my student-athletes graduate and move out to the real world.
ATT: How would you like to be remembered as a coach?
CH: I would hope that my players will always remember me as a coach that truly cared about their life. I try to provide advice and support to all of my players. I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in some weddings of former players and still have relationships with many of my former athletes. I take great pride in seeing them become successful individuals. Ultimately, I’m just a college tennis coach that absolutely loves my occupation. I feel that all of my former athletes can say that I truly cared about them as people and not just tennis players.
ATT: What life experiences have shaped you as a coach and what would be your biggest coaching strength?
CH: That’s a very tough question. I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. I’ve experienced the highs of winning a good amount in my playing career and then having it translate to my coaching career. I’ve also suffered some personal lows such as losing my mother to cancer and experiencing a failed marriage. The interesting thing is that I feel like I have come out of all of this as a much better human being. I feel like my ability to motivate my players due to my own personal experiences may be my biggest strength. I absolutely love delivering a speech to my team right before a big match. It is in those moments when I feel like I’m in my coaching zone and know I can make my biggest impact. I also know that my teams will never step on the court and not be prepared to compete.
ATT: Do you think your national records will ever be broken?
CH: Well, you are putting me on the spot with this question. I think there is a small possibility that it could be broken. I don’t want to sound arrogant but I think the odds are in my favor that it most likely will never be broken. I do feel that the distinction of guiding 6 programs to their first ever national ranking will never be broken. You have to coach at a lot of places to put yourself in a position to obtain a record such as this. I honestly don’t even like talking about it because I truly feel that I’m just another coach in this great game of college tennis.
At the age of 37, there is no telling what else Hodges will accomplish in his decorated coaching career. When it is all said and done, the name “Chase Hodges” will be symbolic as one of the greatest college tennis coaches in the history of the sport. For those that don’t feel that he is worthy, I would say to you this, “Don’t worry, he will prove you wrong!”
What People are saying about Chase Hodges:
David Benjamin, President of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA)
- "On behalf of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, I would like to congratulate Chase Hodges for breaking his previous record and for all of his extraordinary achievements during his coaching career."
Brian Boland, Head Men’s Tennis Coach at #1 University of Virginia and defending NCAA national champion-
"Chase Hodges has made programs better everywhere he has coached. I congratulate Chase on this incredible milestone. I look for him to continue to make a positive contribution to college tennis."
Kenny Thorne, Head Men’s Tennis Coach at Georgia Tech-
"It is not by chance that success follows Chase wherever he goes. He is an extremely hard worker and adapts quickly and well to his environment. He had very good teams at Georgia State and will continue to have great teams at Georgia Gwinnett. Congratulations to him. Very well deserved."
Darin Wilson, Georgia Gwinnett College Director of Athletics- "Chase Hodges is a very talented coach and leader of our young men and women. In the process of hiring him to begin our programs at GGC, the opportunity to pursue national championships ultimately led to him becoming a Grizzly. We are excited about the season that lies ahead for our men's and women's teams."
Maor Zirkin- All Time Drake University Men’s Tennis Wins Leader- "Chase is an amazing motivater and has a unique quality of creating great team spirit. He makes you feel a part of something bigger. He recognizes each individual player and cares about them which makes the athletes really want to win for him. I am lucky to have been recruited by Chase to play for Drake and I still miss his pre-match speeches and the thrill of clinching a match for him."
Dado Pavic- Ranked in the top 20 in singles and double, Drake University-
"It is no surprise that Coach Hodges continues to make a habit out of being successful. During my playing days at Drake, I had a very memorable and character building career playing for Chase. It is great to see him continue to transition his skills and turn teams into national contenders every year. Aside from his impressive resume as a player, coach, and businessman, Coach Hodges has always had the ability to inspire, motivate, and deliver results in a reasonable short period of time."
Victor Valente, Former #1 Player at Georgia State- "First of all, Chase is a great coach on and off the court. On the court, he always makes sure that the team is giving 100% without being overbearing. Off the court, he develops and maintains great relationships with his players. I consider Chase not only my coach but also a good friend with whom I have great memories. I think this creates a good harmony within the team and contributes to the success of all the teams that he coaches. Moreover, Chase is an outstanding recruiter. The numbers do not lie. The fact that he has led seven teams to a national ranking means that he understands tennis and knows how to recruit great players."
Bill Pastner (ATT Tennis)