Two great college squash coaches died recently. They showed that there is more than one way to be an effective leader.
John F. Kenfield, Jr. died in October 2010 at the age of eighty-nine. He coached the Dartmouth men from 1966 to 1983.
Kenfield came from North Carolina. He had grown up in coaching: his father, John, Sr., was the tennis coach at UNC and John, Jr. played for him in college. After graduation, he served as a pilot during the Second World War and then became the men’s tennis coach at NC State. He came to Hanover at the age of forty-five.
Just the fourth coach in Dartmouth’s history (the team was started in 1937), Kenfield didn’t know anything about squash before taking the job. But he worked hard, converted tennis players and maintained a top ten program while coaching three All Americans. His best year was in 1981-82 when the team went 10-5; his overall record was 89-119.
Kenfield was known as Gentleman John. He always wore a coat and tie at matches and calmly road a bike from his home on Rip Road to the gym. He taught his players about the primacy of sportsmanship, as Robert Sullivan’s piece about Kenfield in Sports Illustrated in 1984 explained.
Bob Hawthorn died in March 2011 at the age of eighty. He coached the Fordham men from 1956 to 2010.
Hawthorn was the opposite of Kenfield in some ways. He cared little for the trappings of his position. He demanded that his players call him Bob rather than Coach. He was famously salty, with a sarcastic, irreverent tone, always competitive and a natural teacher.
Hawthorn was a registered nurse, a full-time math teacher at Fordham Prep, the Fordham men’s tennis coach; all seven of his children attended Fordham, as he had.
He coached a college squash team for fifty-four years. It is a record, easily beating Jack Barnaby’s forty-two seasons, and something that probably will never be broken.