State titles add up to 26
Riverside teacher Terry Conner is known as Mr. Conner in the classroom and Coach Conner at the tennis court, bowling alley and track field.
In 30 years of coaching, his tennis teams have won seven state titles and his bowling teams have won three. Add the teams' 10 championship titles to Riverside's singles and doubles state titles, and it adds up to an impressive 26 in all. The Rebels tennis team has captured the state title three consecutive years.
Conner started his career at Riverside the first year Caraway and Lake City merged into Riverside. He has taught every math class available during his 30 year teaching career.
Getting to know his students in the classroom and in competitive sports gives teacher and student the opportunity to get to know each others personalities, Conner said.
Conner did not grow up playing tennis. He took a course in college and discovered how much he enjoyed the game. He gives credit to the administration for allowing him to start a tennis team at Riverside.
He said he does not have any secrets to the success his players have accomplished. They practice hard. Two hours every day.
"Our kids didn't grow up with a country club setting where they played tennis," Conner said. "They start in the ninth grade and they are determined."
The tennis season goes from summer through October.
Numbers vary from year to year. Like all sports, many athletes begin playing but soon discover it is not for them.
"It is really hot when we start practicing and tennis is a lot of work," Conner said. "I enjoy working with the players and watching them grow and get better and better. We also have a lot of healthy competition among our own group. We have had a lot of doubles and singles in the finals of state going against each other. That is good because you can almost be sure your team will finish with the title."
Conner said he has an excellent assistant tennis coach in Scott Dunkerson.
"I could not do this without Scott or Mark Mann who helps me with bowling," he said.
Following the tennis season, bowling season begins. Riverside bowlers practice in Jonesboro. Conner has been coaching the Rebels bowling for about 15 years. As in tennis, Conner said he bowled for fun growing up but he did not compete.
"I don't pretend to be an expert in bowling," Conner said. "I do enjoy watching the young bowlers improve on their games."
He said Coach Mann is very good at teaching the technicalities of bowling.
Conner has served as assistant track coach for six years. This year will be his first to serve as head track coach. Track begins in the spring.
With tennis, bowling and track, Conner does not have much off-season time.
"Education in the classroom has changed throughout the years but tennis, bowling and track have not changed much through the years," Conner said.
Conner also wanted to commend the coaching staff, administration and booster club.
Riverside Rebels are fortunte to have four tennis courts on campus.
"The administration has always provided us with the equipment we need," Conner said. "Thanks to their support all of the athletes winning a state title have received state rings. The ring is a real incentive for the players."
Conner has quite a collection of his own. His classroom is also filled with district and state trophies his teams have brought home.
Conner smiled, admitting he is beginning to get some of the players who are the children of his first teams.
Conner may not raise his voice but he is very serious when it comes to teaching algebra and his coaching.
"I want the kids to have fun, but I want them to do the best they can do," he said.
The young athletes would probably be the first to say playing is fun and winning makes it even more fun.