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Back on the Sidelines

Veteran Coach Tenney Will Guide Rivendell Girls

Hank Tenney, shown giving basketball tips at a Hanover Recreation practice in January 2011, will coach the Rivendell Academy girls team this winter. (Valley News — Geoff Hansen)

Hank Tenney, shown giving basketball tips at a Hanover Recreation practice in January 2011, will coach the Rivendell Academy girls team this winter. (Valley News — Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — Fifty-five years ago, when Hank Tenney was a 15-year-old sophomore at Stevens High School, he coached four basketball teams one winter in a Claremont Recreation Department basketball league.

“I knew right then that I loved coaching,” said Tenney.

And it wasn’t just some short-term love affair.

Come this winter, Tenney, now 70, will return to the sidelines to coach the Rivendell girls basketball team.

During his 55 years on the bench, Tenney has coached nine state champions from a number of locations, in a number of sports. He is perhaps best known for his success as the Hanover High girls soccer coach.

Most recently, he coached the Rivendell girls soccer team to a Vermont state title in 2011.

But there is more. He coached swimming, track and flag football while working in Bennington, Vt., before becoming the Hanover recreation director in 1974. And later, he was the first varsity softball coach in Dartmouth College history.

In all those years, Tenney was never sitting around for more than two years. But even when he wasn’t coaching, Tenney still kept his hand in the games a referee — officiating basketball, softball and soccer.

Tenney recalls officiating his first varsity basketball game in 1974. It was of those Windsor-Woodsville basketball wars, with both teams scoring over 100 points.

“Two great coaches (Windsor’s John Barth and Woodsville’s John Bagonzi) in front a packed house,” recalls Tenney. “It was bedlam.”

Now while that may sound like a lot, it doesn’t even include the 32 summers he has been coaching the Twin State Jammers, a girls AAU team that rolled to a 78-5 mark the last two years.

According to Tenney, coaching AAU basketball is much different than coaching high school.

“I select the players and then they have to pay to play,“ Tenney said. “Stateline Sports provides the uniforms, but everything else, travel, meals and housing all comes from the parents and the players. It is one heckuva commitment.”

Most of the girls who finished the current season have been with Tenney for two or three years — moving from the 13-under class to this year’s 15-under. And Tenney is not one of those go-by-the-book coaches. He doesn’t take out blackboards or charts or set up plays on the sidelines.

And he certainly doesn’t yell out plays to his players on the floor ... because he doesn’t have any plays.

“We just go out there and run the motion offense and the first girl that’s open takes the shot,” said Tenney. “If they don’t take the shot then they are sitting next to me on the bench.”

They took enough shots to win most of their games, including the state AAU championship this summer. That earned the Jammers a trip to the National Invitational Tournament in Springfield, Mass., where they eventually lost to a Quebec team in the finals.

“They had players 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, and we just couldn’t match up,” said Tenney.

That loss ended the season, but probably not the end of this group of Jammers.

“The girls were talking about the U-17 league for next summer,” said Tenney.