Rust gets call from the Hall
When Kevin Rust began his high school tennis coaching journey, it was with zero expectation.
The truth is, he had little clue about what he was doing.
"I just kind of fell into the whole coaching thing," said the 52-year-old Rust, a tennis professional at the Rochester Athletic Club who retired from high school coaching three years ago. "In 1982 the (Rochester) Lourdes girls needed a tennis coach. When I got hired I was much more of a basketball player. I kind of ran things like we were a basketball team. In those early years, I didn't know what I was doing."
Turns out he knew more than he thought. His first year was a raging success, with his Eagles making it all the way to state state finals.
Rust used his basic instincts about guiding a team, then later combined them with with his ever-expanding tennis knowledge to evolve into one of the best high school tennis coaches Minnesota has ever seen.
Saturday, in a ceremony at Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center in St. Paul, Rust will be recognized as such when he's inducted into the Minnesota State High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"This is a big honor," Rust said. "It means a lot to me because you're nominated by your peers, people that you coached against. That they think enough of me to put me here is a real honor."
Looking at Rust's coaching resume, it's easy to see how he was selected. Other than Steve Paulsen with the Edina girls program, nobody has had as prolific a run as Rust did while coaching the Lourdes girls.
From 1982 until 2009, the Eagles won 11 state Class A championships — including 10 in a row — and finished runner-up twice under Rust. He also coached eight state singles champions and nine runner-ups, as well as eight state doubles champs.
Rust wasn't just a girls coach, though. He also directed the Lourdes boys for years, until retiring in 2010. There he had two state team runner-up finishes, as well as directed three state individual singles champions and two runner-ups, and three state doubles champs and two runner-ups.
Still, what may have set Rust apart most wasn't just that he won, but how his teams did it. That is, with class and a heavy dose of sportsmanship.
Rust made sure of that.
"How his teams treated their opponents was something that Kevin was huge on," said current Lourdes girls and boys tennis coach Steve Tacl, who worked under Rust in the boys program in 2009 and '10. "That was as prominent as his whole need to work hard and efficiently at practices. He wanted to make sure our players treated their opponents with respect."
The truth is, that might have been the most important thing to Rust, who grew up on a farm in Worthington, Minn., then later attended Minnesota Bible College in Rochester (now Crossroads College).
"That's one of the things that I miss most about high school coaching, was that you could instill values," Rust said. "I'd always tell our teams that players wouldn't remember if you beat them or not. What they'd remember was how you treated them."