MTCA Hall of Fame
Daniel Borgertpoepping | January 10, 2019
As featured in USTA Northern's December issue of Northern Exposure.
At the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year, Mike Cartwright, longtime Mounds View Mustangs boys and girls tennis coach, finished his illustrious coaching career. This October, Cartwright was inducted into the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
He amassed 1016 career victories over 35 years; 26 of which were at Mounds View.
In 26 years of coaching the boys’ team at Mounds View, Cartwright won three state titles and 11 additional top-3 finishes in 16 trips. As coach of the Mounds View girls’ team for 25 years, he notched 8 top-3 finishes in 15 trips.
With a career spanning three and a half decades, Cartwright coached 26 years in Mounds View, seven years in St. Anthony Village and two years in Hawaii.
“In 35 years, the kids haven’t really changed. ADVERTISEMENT They just love being out there, hitting the tennis ball. They love the growth, love being part of the team,” Cartwright said. “The team aspect is unique in high school; it’s an opportunity to take an individual sport and give them a team focus. The best players can sacrifice personal goals for team success.”
USTA Northern Executive Director Becky Cantellano played for Cartwright at Mounds View and remembers his focus on building team camaraderie in an individual sport.
“Mike was a great coach because he created a sense of team in what is often considered an individual sport. We had team dinners before every match, treats on Saturday mornings if we completed his famous ‘zero drill’ successfully, and every practice started with a mini-tennis warm-up and conversation to create a sense of camaraderie,” Cantellano continued. “I remember my days as a Mustang under ‘Coach Cartwheel’ fondly and am so happy he is getting this much deserved recognition. In addition to producing successful teams, Mike made tennis fun, which in my opinion is the best thing a coach can do for his players.”
Striking The Balance
A science teacher, Cartwright understands the similarities and differences between the classroom and the court and managed to strike the right balance for each.
“When you’re a teacher, a lot of the students want to be there but not all of them. When you’re lucky enough to be out coaching, they’re pretty much there by choice. They’re out there having fun. It’s easy to motivate them and to help them see the value in hitting a ball five or six days a week,” Cartwright said. “We shy away from competition in the classroom and have it be more collaborative but you can do that in the classroom and try to put it in a healthy perspective.”
Scott Sundstrom, Cartwright’s former assistant and current Mounds View teacher and head tennis coach, said their relationship went beyond coaching and that he looked to Cartwright as a mentor not just between the white lines but also in the classroom.
“For the balance of coaching and teaching, Mike is a phenomenal teacher; inspiring to me, successful in the classroom and on the court. One of Mike’s big things was wanting people to play after high school. So many players who played for him are still playing.”
Forging lifetime relationships between players of all levels and the game was always an area of focus for Cartwright. The best players aren’t necessarily the lifetime tennis players to the extent the B-Squadders are, he said. They fall in love and play throughout their lives.
While Cartwright collected 1016 career wins as a coach, he deflects the praise toward the teams who played the matches and emphasizes the less tangible aspects of competition as being of greatest importance.
“I’m a science teacher and I really want my students to enjoy science - not just memorize facts but actually think like a scientist. The same is true on the tennis court. Winning is important but it’s not the most important. It’s good for students’ mental health to find happiness in a physical activity like tennis and enjoy their time on court.”
While 35 years of coaching makes for a long list of positive memories, one of Cartwright’s fondest is having been able to coach both of his daughters and be a part of their experience with their teammates. In addition, the kids learning from their coach gave back a few lessons of their own.
“I learned a lot about the resiliency of kids, the ability to set aside personal goals and put team first. I learned about how tough they are and how mental competitive tennis can be. It’s not just stroking the ball – it’s playing with the right mindset.”
On behalf of USTA Northern, congratulations to Mike Cartwright on his coaching career and his induction into the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame.