News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 29, 2009

Amey Takes Aim: One of TH’s all-time greats nurturing tennis protege daughter

My pick for the hardest job in high school spring sports goes to tennis parents — particularly since the spring is girls season in Indiana.

I can watch the matches around the Wabash Valley very calmly, knowing I have friends on both sides and no stake in which team wins or loses. But a month from now, when I expect to be at Jasper for the semistate with one of our two top-10 teams vying for a berth at the state finals, I’ll be just like the moms and dads — in absolute agony from time to time until the match is over.

Boys occasionally relieve the pressure they’re under with racquet abuse and an epithet or two. Girls are expected to avoid all that, which to me adds even more pressure to the situation.

One of Terre Haute’s all-time greats is learning about being a tennis parent this year.

Tony McGee, two-time McMillan Award winner, all-state football player and Indiana All-Star at Terre Haute South and star tight end for the University of Michigan and the Cincinnati Bengals, is now a tennis dad — with a long road ahead of him.

Hannah McGee is the No. 1 singles player for her high school team at Windermere Prep School in Florida. She’s the best athlete in her family, Tony wrote in a recent e-mail; got one B and the rest As on her last report card; and wants to earn a scholarship to Harvard to be an engineer.

Did I forget to mention anything? Oh yes.

Hannah’s in the fourth grade. She’s 10.

“She started taking lessons when she was 5,” Tony said by telephone earlier this week. “She has a really strong serve and backhand. Her forehand? We’re tweaking her technique a bit.

“I can’t practice with her. She’s too good,” he added. “I have to find people who can hit with her.”

Since my first memories of Tony were when he was a seventh-grader telling a substitute teacher — me — how he’d become a professional athlete someday, I had to ask what plans he had for his only daughter.

“Everyone wants the best for their kids,” he answered, “but I just want her to compete and have fun … I think I finally put it in perspective.”

If Hannah spends nine seasons as her school’s top player, that perspective might be in for a challenge.

• • •

• Another Tony — My tip about Hannah McGee came from Howard Mills, whom most of you know as a successful businessman (and a tennis dad himself) but who to me will always be the catcher for Vigo IGA.

Similarly, Terre Haute attorney Tony Tanoos (another tennis dad, coincidentally) will, to me, remain the fledgling Terre Haute Star sportswriter, dubbed “Turn Me Loose” Tanoos when he played for Carl Jones’ office basketball team and finicky about carry-in food at athletic banquets.

But this part of the column is for him, because he’s been urging me for quite a while now to have a colonoscopy — 11 years later than I should have, one of the nurses pointed out the day a week or so ago when I finally took his advice.

Tony’s theory is that by writing about this procedure I’ll be able to convince others to have it done, saving lives in the process. I think he may be overestimating my influence.

But I will say the procedure itself couldn’t have been easier. No sooner had I requested the Grateful Dead channel on Dr. Schmidt’s XM radio than I was waking up with everything done. I didn’t hear an entire song.

In the interest of fairness, I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the prep. That’s a lot of drinking, especially when getting up at 3 a.m. to drink more.

But I guess my advice would be to have the procedure done, for peace of mind if nothing else.

And send Tony the bill.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.