An HPU Tennis Twist Of Fate

Adecade ago, Hendrik Bode (his last name is pronounced Boh-dee) was one of the top young German tennis players and appeared to be on his way to the United States to play collegiately at the NCAA Division I level. But a twist of fate sent him to Division II and the Islands.

“It was just luck, really,” he says. “I was going to go to Middle Tennessee State; they were in the Top 20 in the nation then. But I was 10 points off in my SAT score – in other words, probably one check mark on the entire test – and it changed my whole life.”

Bode found out in late July before the year he was supposed to go to college that he wasn’t going to be able to compete at the Division I level. That sent him into a desperate search to find another place at another level.

“I sent out several emails, and HPU’s coach responded very quickly. Six weeks later, I was attending HPU,” Bode says.

And how his life changed! Bode led HPU to the NCAA Division II men’s tennis championships as a player and was ranked as high as No. 5 in the country. He did well academically and, after graduation, he became an assistant coach. Then, three years ago, Bode was named head coach of the SeaWarriors’ nationally ranked men’s tennis program.

Oh, and one more important detail: He met and married HPU’s women’s tennis coach Lauren Conching, a local girl from Hawaii Kai.

“We married on 11-11-11,” Bode says proudly. “Tennis is practically our whole life, and it really helps both of us. We ask each other for advice and input.”

That advice and input has paid huge dividends. Conching was the DII Women’s Tennis National Coach of the

Year last year, and Bode was named the West Regional Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. Last year, he also was named PacWest Coach of the Year in leading the HPU men to the conference title, as well as a quarterfinals finish in the NCAA Championships.

His team, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the West and No. 5 in the nation this year, already has beaten a couple of Division I programs.

“It’s still early,” Bode cautions about the early success this season. “We have a big road trip coming up March 12-26, and we’ll be playing several top teams, including the No. 1 team in the country. We’ll be in San Diego, Vegas, Miami, Boca Raton and Orlando.”

HPU’s men’s team is built around nationally ranked Petr Michnev of Germany. The SeaWarriors are like a United Nations roster, with names from several European countries, as well as Japan, the Mainland U.S. and Hawaii.

“We have coaches from Germany, France, Spain, and we get a lot of players from there. We have a rule that, when we’re together, you have to speak English,” Bode says. “But sometimes on the road, when you’re driving to a match, you hear some of the most incredible conversations going on, where you know the attempts at English aren’t quite right. It’s hysterical sometimes.”

Bode, who turns 30 next month right after the PacWest Championships in Arizona, says he loves what he’s doing right now.

“I know what it’s like to be a student-athlete, and I appreciate the opportunity to make a big impact on a young person’s life as a coach,” he says. “It’s very rewarding.”