Drew and Hunter Fernelius balance being father and son, player and coach and teammates on the tennis court.
By Conrad Engstrom
Evening loomed as Hunter Fernelius walked onto the tennis court, ready for his match in the Shakopee Summer Sizzler tournament.
Darkness began to cover the court, compromising visibility for the players. With no stadium lighting, Hunter’s match appeared to be destined for cancellation.
That’s when the imaginary light bulb above Drew Fernelius’ head turned on. His brilliant idea? Use car lights to illuminate the court.
“We had to finish the tournament and my dad ended pulling up a bunch of cars on the court,” Hunter said.
Hunter, now a freshman player on the Bethel men’s tennis team, remembers the headlight-lit match as one of his more memorable tennis moments. Now the Ferneliuses are making more memories together at Bethel University, adding to ‘father’ and ‘son’ the new roles of ‘coach’ and ‘player.’
Drew has been the coach of the Bethel tennis teams since 2013. He found success as a player in high school, qualifying for three state tournament appearances and competing in college at the University of St. Thomas.
The elder Fernelius began his coaching career at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minn., where he trained Hunter as a freshman. When Hunter graduated in 2015 and had to decide on a post-grad school, he picked Bethel without any pressure from Drew. However, his presence did make Hunter’s decision easier.
“My church is close by Bethel, and I went to a lot of events at Bethel in high school and middle school. When my dad got the job, it was a huge blessing,” Hunter said. “Hedid not push me at all, I had my mind made up pretty much going my sophomore year in high school.”
Nonetheless, Drew can’t help but think it was the right choice.
“I think he would be at Bethel even if [I] wasn’t the tennis coach here,” Drew said. “He’s a Bethel fit.”
The Fernelius’ tennis connection goes beyond just coaching. They are also each other’s fiercest rivals and closest teammates. During the summer, the duo loves to compete with and against each other in pickup matches and competitive tournaments.
This past summer, they made it to the semifinals in a father-son doubles tournament. Hunter recalls being nervous about the first match because the opponents they were scheduled to play were a father who played at the University of Minnesota and a son who had a Division II scholarship.
“We thought we were going to get destroyed,” Hunter said. “But it was probably one of the best matches I’ve ever played.” The Ferneliuses prevailed in the match and advanced in the tournament.
Competing is not the only tennis activity the two enjoy together during the summer months. They also spend time hosting tennis clinics, teaching kids how to play.
As the spring of his freshman year continues and the season is well underway for the Royals, Drew and Hunter are enjoying the time they get to spend coaching and competing at the collegiate level and believe they have a good enough relationship that will continue to keep this experience wonderful.
“It’s a dream come true,” Drew said. “Getting to coach him… I cannot think of anything better.”