June 11, 2001
Game, set, career . . .
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
Don Schroers office in the P.E. Center is painstakingly organized,
but relentlessly cluttered.
Then there are the stacks, from floor to ceiling in the closet, of t-shirtssouvenirs
for the hundreds of young tennis campers who will descend on the University
this summer, many of them spilling onto the sofa facing Schroers
And there are the boxes of tennis rackets in between the sofa and the
desk, some needing to be restrung, some ready for battle. Yes, Schroer
has his organizational skills down pat. But then, hes had more than
30 years of practice.
Following 31 years as head coach of Emorys mens tennis team,
Schroer stepped down at the end of the 1999 season. He compiled an all-time
record of 503-288, making him the fifth-winningest mens coach in
Division III history. Since its creation in 1988, his squads won every
UAA title, save for a second-place finish in 1989. (We shouldve
won it; there was no reason to lose that, he grumbles to this day.)
And, in 1996, the Eagles finished the year as Div. III
It was a little awkward, but I wasnt as uncomfortable as
I thought I might be, Schroer says of his postretirement lifestyle.
Now Im very comfortable with the idea of not coaching and,
in fact, enjoying my free time. When youre coaching, youre
really not in charge of your own time.
Although technically retired from coaching, Schroer hardly spends his
newly found time lounging about the fishing hole. He teaches racket sports
as an associate professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education
and Dance. He is a tennis instructor for Evening at Em-ory classesone
of the programs most popular offerings.
What weve found is that people are attracted to the sport
because they want some exercise, they want to feel good about themselves,
they want to accomplish a skill, and they want to become involved with
friends in a like experience, Schroer says.
Every summer since 1968, hes run Emorys tennis camp, the
oldest in the Atlanta area and one that draws young players from across
the country. For four days, boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 18
come to campus, rackets in hand, ready to hit the courts. This year Schroer
is leading eight separate sessions from June 4 through Aug. 3. In between,
he runs three Nike camps, which are for more elite players.
In all, he teaches 300 to 500 students a year. Between 30 and 50 percent
return for another camp and many of his instructors are former campers
Every year is a new creation, he says. Schroer has a daily
outline of how to run camps, but he adjusts it each year to accommodate
the new group. And its no easy task; the regular Emory tennis camps
require a 12- or 14-hour plan, while the Nike camps must be administered
24 hours a day.
Growing up in Seymour, Ind., about an hour south of Indianapolis, Schroer
played tennis. But in high school his sport was football, which he played
all four years, earning a scholarship to Valparaiso University in the
process. He also played four years of baseball and basketball.
As an aside, Schroer recalls his senior year in 1958, when a young boy
of 5 or 6 who lived down the street would come out to watch every practice.
Hed be dressed in a helmet and shoulder pads. The boy, Johnny, was
made the unofficial team mascot. It was the first step in what would be
a long career in the spotlight for the lad. His last name? Mellencamp.
After graduating from Valparaiso, Schroer and wife Peggy moved to Los
Angeles, where he taught high school and coached not only football but
tennis, which reintroduced him to the sport.
After five years, the Schroers soured on California and looked to move
back East. Don applied for several jobs and got the call back from Emory.
I think I went to college with the idea that I would go into education
and coach, Schroer says. You know how it is when you are in
collegemaybe I should do this, maybe I should do thatbut I
always had it in the back of my mind that this is what I wanted to do.
Earlier this year, several of Schroers friends and colleagues got
together to honor the coach upon his retirement.
Six months in the making, a whos-who of the athletic department
(Sports Information Director John Arenberg, current mens tennis
coach John Browning, office manager Joyce Jaleel, Professor Clyde Partin,
golf coach Mike Phillips and womens tennis coach Amy Smith) set
up a celebratory dinner honoring Schroer in Cox Hall, March 24.
Close to 150 guests, including 40 former players, returned to Emory to
honor their recently retired coach and mentor. They came from all across
the countryCalifornia, New York, Ohio, Floridaand they came
from all points in Schroers career. Players spanning each of Schroers
five decades at the University spoke.
It was just awesome, Schroer says, clearly moved by the memory
of the evening.
It was a tremendous reflection on Don, Jaleel says. She served
as the driving force behind the committees effort to put on the
banquet. I wanted to honor him in the best way. We wanted to pay
very special attention to him. He means so much to me, he means so much
to Emory, and he means so much to his alumnus players.
But how long does Schroer plan to coach in some capacity? Forever.
Thats tough, he continues, contemplatively. I dont have a closing date. I definitely want to teach as long as I can because I really enjoy it. Emory is a great employer, and it provides me with a great routine.