Making News, Not Reporting it

Lauren Conching speaks with her HPU tennis team | Eric Alcantara photo

Hawaii Kai’s Lauren Conching dreamed of being a television sideline reporter. She loved sports and the energy and excitement of covering the world of athletics. She had her wish partially fulfilled when she got an entry-level job with CBS Sports in New York City right after college, doing research for sportscasters such as Greg Gumbel and Leslie Visser.

Then she came home to Hawaii and worked as an intern at KHON and KGMB.

But the dazzle of the industry wore off.

“I kind of realized it wasn’t for me,” she recalls.

So she returned to her first passion, tennis.

“I loved coaching tennis,” she says. “I was teaching little kids and I really enjoyed seeing them develop. It was great seeing what a difference you could make for them.”

Conching, who grew up on Oahu, as well as in Korea and in Texas, had been a tennis star at Kaiser High School who won a national doubles title in junior college.

She finished her collegiate career as a Division I player at Stony Brook in New York.

After her brief stint in television, she was named assistant tennis coach at Hawaii Pacific University, where she also would serve as athletics marketing coordinator.

Conching did her job so well, she was named National Assistant Coach of the Year by the ITA in 2010. Last year, she was elevated to head coach of the SeaWarriors’ nationally ranked women’s tennis team.

So she’s gone from almost being on the sidelines to being a leader both on the court and off.

Her natural energy and enthusiasm soon spilled over to the athletes she coached. This season, for the first time in school history, the HPU women’s tennis team beat arch-rival and perennial national powerhouse BYU-Hawaii. The 5-4 victory in Laie came after previous teams had fallen short for so many years.

“It was almost unrealistic to think it could happen when I first got here,” she says.

“That’s why it meant so much to me when it finally happened. When it did, when our No. 2 singles player came back from a 4-1 deficit to win 6-4, the players were so excited and almost freaking out, but I didn’t know what to do. I was so used to giving the old speech about trying hard and giving your best that I was totally unprepared. I did nothing.”

But Conching knew deep inside how good it felt to win a match so huge. HPU is now ranked No. 3 in the nation, its highest national ranking ever, and No. 1 in the West for the first time ever. (HPU’s men’s team, coached by Hendrik Bode, also is ranked No.1 in the West.)

The school will host the PacWest Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships April 18-20 at Central Oahu Regional Park.

“We’re really excited to host because this is the first year (the PacWest) has had both men’s and women’s tennis,” she says. “It’s a great honor for our school to host and show off the dedication and hard work of our staff. We’re hoping we get some fans out there.”

Conching knows there’s a chance that her team could end up facing BYU-Hawaii (ranked No. 4 in the nation) again in the championship finals, and she knows what that could potentially mean.

She also knows she’s living her dream:

“I’m so happy now.”