October 30, 2012

Roadrunners hire Bates to start program

Chris Whitfield

— Ever since she was a kid playing on the community tennis courts, the game has been as much a part of Michel Bates’ life as anything else.

Already the director of the tennis program for the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department, Bates will soon take on added duties after being announced Monday as coach of the startup men’s and women’s tennis teams at Dalton State College.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity for the institution and the community to add college athletics in this area, and specifically, our tennis program,” Bates said in a release from the school. “I look forward to building a top-notch, first-class program that represents Dalton State and this great community the way it deserves.”

Messages left for Bates on her cell phone on Monday evening were not returned.

Bates is the third head coach hired for the relaunched Dalton State athletics program, and all three have ties to Northwest Georgia. Men’s basketball coach Tony Ingle is a former Dalton Junior College basketball player and Whitfield County native, while competition cheerleading coach Robyn Newell is a native of Rossville.

Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh said Bates’ roots in the community and her access to a quality tennis facility, the city’s Lakeshore Park, were a perfect fit for the Roadrunners. The teams will be based at Lakeshore Park when they begin competition during the 2012-13 school year. The Roadrunners are expected to compete in the NAIA.

“Her reputation locally is just fantastic, both in the tennis community and in the entire community at large,” Waugh said. “She had a lot of great references. With her contacts throughout the state and in the Atlanta tennis community, that will help us tremendously in terms of recruitment and helping us grow. The program will have to grow as we grow, and the future is bright.”

Bates was selected as one of The Daily Citizen’s 50 “Local Legends” in a 2010 publication about some of the area’s greatest athletes of all time.

A 1981 graduate of Dalton High, Bates sandwiched a GHSA individual state title her junior year between runner-up finishes as a sophomore and a senior. It was the only individual state tennis title in the school’s history. From ages 15 to 18, Bates held the United States Tennis Association’s No. 1 ranking.

She went on to play at Auburn University, earning three letters and an All-Southeastern Conference designation her junior and senior years. She was also an All-America honorable mention in her last two years of college before launching a professional career.

Bates will begin her new duties Thursday, and as a part-time employee of the school, she will be paid $20,000. In her current role with the DPRD, she oversees a program with more than 80 students and also runs tournament and charity events for the city and the USTA.

“She is not only a great player and teacher of the game, but I know she is excited to start recruiting and her goal is the same as ours — to have one of the most competitive tennis programs in the country,” Waugh said.

Funding was another issue that Waugh mentioned on Monday. The school’s student body has approved a $100 fee increase per student to help fund the athletic department; Waugh said now that must be approved by the state.

The school is currently looking for a women’s volleyball coach, a men’s and women’s cross country coach and a men’s and women’s golf coach.