South Dakota Tennis Hall of
Hall of Famers
Induction Ceremony
Love Serving Tennis
Achievement Award
Photo Gallery
Fenn Cup
Site Sponsors













Larry Cantine

by Jeff Natalie-Lees

Larry Cantine of Milbank, a 2010 Inductee to the South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame, will be the first to admit that he is not a great tennis player. He has never won a major South Dakota tournament or even a regional tournament. His brief high school coaching career (1967-1972) was successful, but not remarkable. 

So  why would would he be elected into the Hall of Fame? 


The answer is that no one in Northeast South Dakota has passionately supported and contributed more to the game of tennis than Cantine. 
When he moved to Milbank in 1967 to teach civics and government at the junior high school, there were no organized tennis programs.  Milbank High School had once had a tennis team, but the program had lapsed. With great enthusiasm Cantine recruited players. He established a summer tennis program to teach fundamentals and to encourage children to play the game.


Cantine, himself, was a self taught tennis player. He learned to play on courts near his boyhood home of Fairmont, MN. 
He developed his skills by reading books and playing tennis while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He fell in love with the sport. It may sound cliche, but Cantine has always viewed tennis as more than a game. It is a proving ground for developing qualities such as physical fitness, integrity, self-control and above all, sportsmanship.
In 1972, he left the field of teaching and coaching to work at Valley Office Products, a business he would eventually own. He continued to teach summer tennis and gave adult lessons as well. At its peak in the late 1970s, there were 150 students enrolled in youth and adult tennis programs.


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Cantine continued to promote the game. He lobbied the Milbank School District and Milbank City Council for court improvements. He organized tournaments and was one of the few regular spectators at high school tennis matches.


He began stringing rackets at his business, so players would not have to drive to Watertown for repairs. He sold quality rackets when the only ones available were cheap models sold at the hardware store. 


Tennis at the Cantine household has been a family affair. His wife, Loretta has been involved in the sport and their sons - Kevin, Greg and Scott - all played on the Milbank High School team. Today Cantine is teaching his grandchildren - Alex, Rachael and Rhianna - to play the game.


Cantine is probably best known for his one-on-one promotion of the game.  As a professional salesman, he has used his salesmanship to recruit people to play tennis. Any new resident could count on Cantine inviting them (several times) to the courts. He was instrumental in getting teachers Bob Hirsch and Jim Dahl interested in the game. Both would later coach the Milbank High School teams. 


In his coaching of young people, he has always emphasized sportsmanship above winning. Correct form was important, competitiveness was important, but playing with class was the Holy Grail of tennis. Frequently, he talked about tennis etiquette, referencing Colonel Nicolas E. Powel’s “The Code of Tennis”


One of his favorite passages of the Code is the following: “When making a close line call the unwritten law is that any doubt must be resolved in favor of one’s opponent. A player in attempting to be scrupulously honest on line calls frequently will find himself keeping a ball in play that might have been out or that the player discovers too late was out. Even so, the game is much better played this way.” 


In 2000, the Milbank School Board considered cutting the tennis program because of budgetary problems. Cantine formed the Milbank Area Community Tennis Association and raised money to save the program. 


In 2003 the Milbank City Council voted to name the tennis courts Cantine Courts in honor of his achievements. One of the testimonies given about him at the time credited him with “single- handedly keeping tennis alive in Milbank”.
In 2004, Cantine received a “Love Tennis” grant to promote youth tennis. He has organized many youth events and brought in United States Tennis Association instructors many times. 


Today  he continues to be actively involved in the sport He organizes and plays in the Milbank Area Community Tennis Association matches every Monday and Wednesday evenings during the summer. As president of the MACTA, he arranges for a college student to teach summer youth tennis programs  every year. 
When it was announced that he would be elected into the SD Tennis Hall of Fame, Cantine was shocked. He said he was almost embarrassed to receive the honor. “I never felt that I did that much,” he said. “It is just a great game. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in tennis!”