Elkhart Central tennis coach Ric Wiskotoni will mix strong tradition with new energy

Elkhart Central’s new tennis coach, Ric Wiskotoni, takes the job loaded with lessons learned from his predecessor, Dave Whittaker.

Posted on July 18, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

ELKHART — Ric Wiskotoni was nine years old when Dave Whittaker first planted the tennis seed.

Whittaker, who coached Elkhart Central tennis to more than 500 wins in 24 years, would pick Wiskotoni up for practice and drive him to tournaments.

The seed continued to grow, and Wiskotoni continued his playing career under Whittaker at Central. He later became Whittaker’s assistant coach for the boys and girls tennis teams. The partnership lasted until Whittaker retired in March after undergoing heart surgery.

Now Wiskotoni will take the reins so long held by his mentor. On Thursday, July 17, Central named Wiskotoni the head coach of the Blazers’ boys and girls tennis teams.

Whittaker leaves behind a 24-year legacy at Central, 21½ of which were spent with Wiskotoni at assistant coach.

“He was always super organized, which is what I’ve learned from him,” Wiskotoni said. “The program was always about the kids. In 20-something years, he never said, ’I’m the head coach, you’re the assistant coach.’ We were always in it together.”

Wiskotoni also is a teaching professional at East Lake Athletic Club and is the new director of the Elkhart Parks & Recreation tennis program — where he also replaced Whittaker.

“His whole life revolves around tennis, and we felt that it made a lot of sense with his loyalty with Elkhart Central and tennis and we wanted to give him an opportunity to give him his own program to run,” Central athletic director Brian Buckley said. “In basketball if someone hangs out in the gym a lot, we call him a gym rat. I’m sure there’s a word for that in tennis, too.”

Wiskotoni faces the challenge of maintaining the strong tradition Whittaker built while also implementing his own ideas.

“Whittaker and I aren't the same, but we work so well together,” Wiskotoni said. “My goal is the same as his was — to teach the kids more than just tennis and to make them strong.”

For starters, Wiskotoni wants Central to host an invitational in the coming years. The school has never hosted an invitational, but Wiskotoni knows there’s interest from other programs in the area.

His goal’s for the upcoming fall and spring seasons are plain but firm: Be better than we were last year.

“I always want to put the strongest team on the court and have more success than we had the year before,“ he said. ”Every year I want to win the sectional. Every year I want to win the regional.“

Wiskotoni said Whittaker is recovering well from his heart surgery and is already biking six miles a day. The former coach said he hopes to attend a few practices and games this fall.

Meanwhile, Wiskotoni will take the lessons learned under Whittaker’s wing and use them to shape a new era of Central tennis.

“I can’t stress enough how much Mr. Whittaker means to me,” he said. “Without him, I would not be here. He isn’t just a guy who I coached with and coached me. He’s family. There’s a lot of kids — and I’m one of them — who wouldn’t be successful without him.”


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