By Cameron Deckman
Hundreds of people pass Mr. Tim Cleland every day. Many don’t know his story. Cleland is not just a teacher, he’s a tennis coach, an author, and a role model to many people.
“He’s just a personable guy… it’s easy to just talk to him, and he’s a very creative and curious person,” senior Eleni Bow said.
Cleland grew up in Columbus Ind., and is the youngest of four.
Growing up he always believed he could do whatever his older brothers could do, and he believed he could do it better.
When Cleland was in his sophomore year, his brother, Mick, started playing tennis for Hauser High School. With the mentality that he could do better he started playing tennis, too. At first, Cleland was hitting a tennis ball against his garage door. It didn’t take long for him to start building his skillset.
In 1980, his senior year, Cleland went on to make the all-state team for tennis. He was the first student to reach the all-state team in any sport for Hauser High School.
After high school Cleland started attending Ball State University, and at the same time began working as a reporter. Cleland started working in 1983 for the Muncie Evening Press. During those years he would work from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Being a reporter led to moments that many other people wouldn’t be able to experience.
One story that Cleland was on was when former MLB player Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record. On Sept. 11, 1986 Rose got his 4,192nd hit. After the game, Cleland was walking right next to Rose on the way to the post-game interview room.
In 1989 he got offered a spot as tennis coach for Delta High School. He was still a reporter, but since it was after work he decided to take the offer. Starting with coaching the boys team he began to build a program.
In 1996 something happened that would change Cleland’s life. The Muncie Evening Press and the Muncie Star would merge into a new paper, the Muncie Star Press. With the merger, there was a new schedule. It would no longer be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., it would be 3 p.m. to midnight. This was a problem for Cleland because he would not be able to coach tennis.
Knowing this he decided he would go back to Ball State and get an education degree. After less than two years he was able to go teach at Delta High School.
At first, it wasn’t so easy. He had to handle five different subjects at the same time. In the early years this included teaching U.S. history, mythology, creative writing, yearbook and newspaper classes.
“(There were) lots of late nights,” Cleland says.
In more recent years he has taught yearbook, newspaper and Eagle Zone News telecommunications.
He’s been teaching for 25 years now, and he has become a role model for many people. One of those people is Eleni Bow. She has been in his newspaper class for all four years of high school. Cleland has helped her and given her opportunities others wouldn’t. With this being her last year in that class, there are a lot of emotions.
“Part of me says it just makes me want to start sobbing, like my life is over. The other part of me wants me to be frustrated that I can’t be here anymore. However, I’m very thankful for what he’s been able to give me.”
She has committed to Ball State for journalistic photographic storytelling, and she wants to follow in Cleland’s footsteps as a reporter.
This spring will be Cleland’s 61st season as a tennis head coach. Since he’s been a coach he has been in the final 4 for state four times. Nowadays he is recognized as one of the best tennis coaches in the state of Indiana.
“One thing he does differently is he connects with every player he has,” assistant coach Tate Dishman said. “He cares for every person on the team, and he does not cut anyone.”
Dishman played for Cleland as a kid from 2007 to 2010. Exactly 30 years after Cleland made the all-state team Dishman made the all-state team for Delta.
The team is seen as a very positive program. Everyone helps each other out, and no matter how bad a player might do there is always someone there to back them up.
“You feel like you are a part of something when you are there,” says freshman Jacob Williams.
Even with tennis, teaching, and many other things Cleland has found time for another big project. Currently, he is writing a book. It is a biography of his parents’ lives. He’s spent a year on it, but he didn’t plan on writing for that long. The project started as a Christmas present.
“Whenever I get involved in something I tend to go overboard.” Cleland said.
He interviewed his parents over a period of six months. The book is called “First Time’s a Charm” because his parents have never dated anyone besides each other.
They’ve been married for 65 years. He believes that he won’t be done by Christmas, but he has already typed 50,000 words.
Cleland plans to be teaching for many years to come. He will see students come and go. He will make bonds with students, and will coach many tennis players. However one thing will always stay the same.
His influence on everyone.