LANSING | At Thursday's T.F. South Sectional, Rebels badminton coach Bob Tengstrand was a busy man.
He had two singles players and two doubles teams playing for the sectional title and all four entries would qualify for this weekend's state meet in Charleston.
He wasn't too busy to chat with parents from both T.F. South and other schools. then he disappeared. He hen came out with two paper plates, each with a big piece of cake. He gave them to parents.
He invited the players to the hospitality room as he had a big cake with "2013 T.F. South Badminton Sectional" written on the frosting.
The veteran coach is a combination coach, host and ambassador for the game. His Rebels finished second at state two years ago, sixth last year and are favored to win it all at Eastern Illinois University. If the Rebels bring home a state title, they would be just the second to win a team title in school history.
Bill Beckwith's 1990 girls bowling team were also state champs.
Assistant coach Jessica Rising is a T.F. North grad and a three-time state qualifier. She played for Tengstrand at North.
"I never thought I would coach at South with them being our rival," Rising said. "When 'T' came here and asked me to coach with him, I was honored. He loves the sport and loves teaching it. He is totally dedicated to it."
Rising got her start at badminton when her dad, the late Don Rising, had her hit a few shuttlecocks.
"I couldn't even hit it and my dad told me maybe I should stick with softball," Rising said. "He gave me over to 'T' and he made me get better."
He was also there when Don died in November of 2004, Jessica's junior year.
"Badminton was a big part of my life because it was a tough year," Rising said. "Coach 'T' was there for me. He understood, but he also worked with me and he was a big help in a tough time.
"He is an ambassador for badminton."
Try to ask him about himself and he will tell you: "It is all about the kids, not me."
Ask the kids about what he said and they will tell you it is about "T" and his dedication.
"He is 'Mr. Badminton,' without a doubt," doubles player Jenna Pasko said. "He puts in a lot of time and loves the sport and loves the kids. You know when he gets on you it is because he cares and he wants yo to do better."
Pasko and Shannon Pollard are one of the top seeds at the state meet.
"We do kid 'T' about being the singles (players) coach," Pasko said. "He is serious, but you can kid with him."
Junior Jessica Gomez, who is 51-1, said Tengstrand is why she is so successful.
"He really worked with me and pushed me," Gomez said. "Without 'T' I don't know if I would be playing badminton and I know I would not be as successful."
Pollard said she and her teammates are spoiled not only because their coach works them hard to get better, but the intangibles.
"He is tough on us, but he really takes care of us," Pollard said. "The snacks, taking us out for lunch, encouraging us."
Oak Forest coach Bob Sands said Tengstrand has done exactly what one needs to do to build a program.
"Bob recruited the hallways and got kids to come out," Sands said. "Then he keeps them involved playing year-round. He loves the sport and it shows.
"His teams are always competitive. ... Bob has done things the right way."
At every practice there is a big barrel filled with snacks and treats. Tengstrand even had a gumball machine at the sectionals. The South Suburban Conference Coach of the Year even has a big ceremony after tournaments and makes each winner come up to receive not only a medal, but a towel with their place and event on it.
He works the crowd as he walks around with the microphone and tells them to go finish up the cake and take a bottle of water or can of pop home.
"I love the game and I love the kids," Tengstrand said. "The success is due to the kids wanting to get better. Me, I just fell in love with the game 30 years ago at T.F. North."
He said he wanted to coach a sport, but had to have one where he could bring in his own coaches. Tengstrand coached at North for 25 years and built the program into a power. He took a year off to give private lessons, then took over in 2010 at T.F. South.
"The athletic director told me I could coach badminton," Tengstrand said. "I learned a lot in a hurry. I can't tell you how much fun it has been. Here, at South, we have a four-year plan and we hope it comes to fruition at state."