A long time key
official with the SD Activities Association, Ruth Rehn, is being
honored with the 2018 SD Tennis Achievement Award for over 30
years of advancing high school tennis in our state.
Ruth grew up in
southeastern South Dakota during the 1950-60’s when females had
very limited opportunities for organized sports. She made the
best of life on the farm near Lyons (Tri-Valley High grad 1966)
playing anything she could participate in, “as long as it was
from South Dakota State University (1966) then getting her
master’s degree, also at SDSU, she seized any chance at
athletics she could get while leaning toward teaching and
coaching. Her first teaching work was at St James, MN where she
starting the gymnastics program, while coaching other sports.
At Austin, MN Ruth coached junior high basketball and started
the interscholastic girls programs in gymnastics, volleyball and
Her first taste
of tennis had come while at SDSU in gym class, when she decided
to buy her own racquet rather than grab one from the class bin.
It was a T.A. Davis wood racquet (the same one owned by her
teacher, Geraldine Crabbs,). Ruth smiles recalling the teacher
told Ruth she wouldn’t be very good at tennis, “her honesty
hurt, but it made me try harder.”
Ruth’s tennis “story,” the influence of the legendary Billie
Jean King on Ruth eventually paid big dividends for high school
tennis in SD. Billie Jean had been named Female Athlete of the
Year and Sports Illustrated Person of the Year and been #1
ranked in the world during the 1960’s into the 1970’s.
Ruth was hired
by the SD High School Activities Association in 1974 as the
first female administrator to develop and promote the girls
sports programs of the state. “From my first day at the SDHSAA
until my retirement in 2008, I championed the cause of equal
opportunity for girls in sports throughout the state and
nation. With the passage of Title IX in 1972, and the
inspiration of Billie Jean, I was armed to make my mark in
developing greater opportunities, respect and recognition for
girls athletics” said Ruth.
When Ruth was
hired in ’74, sports offered to girls were golf, tennis and
track and field; however none of those were fully developed.
She was responsible for adding basketball, volleyball cross
country and competitive cheer and dance while administrating all
girls’ sports programs for SD.
instrumental in developing officials’ associations in the sports
of gymnastics, basketball, football, wrestling and volleyball
and assisted with a training officials program. She worked to
get certified officials for prep state tennis tournaments. “In
1994, that became a reality at the state high school
tournaments. With the help of Darrell Gomarko and Gene Heller,
officials at the state meet became a reality,” said Ruth.
She said she
treated tennis as a special sport because it had often been
labeled a “minor” sport. She worked to attain greater attention
statewide for tennis. In 1974 doubles was added to the state
meet and soon it went from a one day to a two- day event.
Eventually, she was SDHSAA administrator for both the boys’ and
girls’ tennis programs.
She worked with
Don Rogers, Pierre’s girls coach, to revamp the scoring system
to make it fairer for every round, at every spot in the order,
including seeding procedures, adding more consolation rounds and
now moving it to a three-day event with rules meetings,
sportsmanship and uniform codes in place.
“There are so
many individuals and tennis coaches that assisted in the crusade
to make tennis a top-notch sport in SD,” said Ruth. “I’ll miss
some names who helped guide me along the way, and many are now
deceased, retired and some still active. “
order, with their school, she noted Don and Kate Barnes of SF
O’Gorman; Burt Elliott of Aberdeen Central; Jim Holwerda of
Brookings; Hank Hulst of Huron; Gayle Klein of Mitchell; Tom
Krueger of SF Lincoln; Tim Mulhair of Yankton; Jeff Nelson, SF
Lincoln; Jason Olson, RC Stevens; Judy Rezatto, Aberdeen
Roncalli; Don Rogers of Pierre; Doug Sims of Madison; Jill
Steele of SF Roosevelt, and Craig Wilbur of Brandon Valley.
thanks goes to Chris Dummermuth who was the on-site director for
many SDHSAA tennis tournaments. Her ability to handle seed
meetings, tournament scheduling in all kinds of weather, and her
ethics of doing what was right was invaluable to me as well as
the entire SDHSAA,” said Ruth.
to others has been noted with induction into the SD Sports Hall
of Fame (as well as three other Halls of Fame). Other awards
include: Howard Wood Dakota Relays Honorary referee, as well as
ten other national and state distinguished service awards.
Schwebach, who has the distinction of being the first official
SD girls high school singles champion (1969), later served on
the South Dakota State University Athletic Advisory Council with
Ruth. “Ruth was very well respected on that committee for her
input,” said Mignonne, “and whenever we had questions
concerning high school athletics, she would listen intently and
offer very sound advice.”
A side benefit
to all Ruth’s prep state tournament experience was watching so
many great players, from Nancy Rost with her five singles titles
to other multi-state champions.
With parents Clarence and Marie Rehn and older sister Ila (Rehn)
Ahrendt, no one could have predicted from those fun days working
the farm or riding that yellow bus to school for 12 years, that
Ruth would rise to the level of accomplishment that she did in
athletic administration. But as Ruth notes from Billie Jean,
“our lifetime of experience can provide others an experience of
a lifetime.” Ruth was so glad to be a part of tennis, a game
which helped shape the lives so many of young people.