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Myrtle Beach Tennis Center Renamed for Coach Rivers Lynch

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Myrtle Beach High School and the City of Myrtle Beach held a ceremony to rename the recently renovated Myrtle Beach Tennis Center in honor and memory of Rivers Foster Lynch. Lynch passed away in April of 2019, less than a year after he retired from decades of service in Horry County Schools. 

Myrtle Beach High School’s marching band and cheerleaders welcomed guests to the ceremony. Those speaking at the ceremony and sharing their thoughts about Lynch and the tennis center included John Cahill, athletic director for Myrtle Beach High and Lynch’s son-in-law; Dr. Rick Maxey, superintendent of Horry County Schools; Brenda Bethune, mayor of the City of Myrtle Beach; Kristin Altman, principal of Myrtle Beach High; Travis Minter, president of the Myrtle Beach High School All Sports Booster; and Teresa Lynch, Rivers Lynch’s wife. The gathered crowd included Lynch’s extended family, HCS board members, city officials, and prominent local business owners. A meal and dessert were provided free of charge by Bojangles and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

As a teacher at North Myrtle Beach High School, Myrtle Beach High School, and Early College High School, Lynch taught classes in health, physical education, biology, and driver's education. 

He also co-founded and taught classes for the Graduation Enhancement Program (GEP), a high school drop-out prevention program. One of Lynch’s favorite sayings was “All it takes is all you’ve got,” and his wife Teresa, who has served as a guidance counselor for HCS at Myrtle Beach High and several other schools over the years, says he used it often in his GEP classes. “I think he meant for us to use that saying in everything we do. It’s hard to do, but it’s a constant,” she said.

Lynch also served as a coach, working with student-athletes in volleyball, track, baseball, boys and girls basketball, and—most relevant for Wednesday’s ceremony—boys and girls tennis. He coached the Myrtle Beach High School girls tennis team to 29 region titles and eight state championship wins, and he took the boys’ tennis team to four region titles and three state championship wins. Though he retired from teaching in 2018, Lynch continued coaching, and his 2019 boys tennis team went on to win a fourth state championship mere days after his passing.

Lynch received numerous awards and recognitions for his coaching over the years, including being named the SC tennis coach of the year in 1992 and the national tennis coach of the year in 2009, being inducted into the SC Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award from High School Sports Report in 2009, and having the US Tennis Association’s “SC College or High School Coach’s Award” renamed in his honor as the “Rivers Lynch Coach of the Year” award in 2019.

Kristin Altman is in her third year as the principal of Myrtle Beach High School, moving into the position from her role as Assistant Principal of Carolina Forest High School over a year after Lynch’s passing. Despite not having worked with him personally, she said it didn’t take long to get to know Lynch on campus. She described him as a pillar of the community and a mentor to staff and students alike. When asked about the decision to name the tennis center after Lynch, Altman said, “He was so instrumental in the development of many of our kids growing up here. It means a lot to recognize all the hard work he poured into our community.”

Lynch, often referred to simply as “Coach,” lived up to that title not only on the sidelines but everywhere he went. Former students frequently recount how Lynch always seemed to have an encouraging word to share with them, even if they weren’t in his class. One Myrtle Beach resident even fondly remembered the day Lynch gave her tips at her track meet, even though he was coaching the team she was competing against. Teresa Lynch said her husband loved to use sports skills as lifelong lessons, adding, “he was a teacher first and a coach second.” 

Jennifer Dennison, the head girls basketball coach at Myrtle Beach High School, recalled how Lynch saw her playing basketball for Myrtle Beach Middle School while he was the varsity girls basketball coach at the high school, and he invited her to play on the varsity team. Dennison said that when she graduated college in 1998, Lynch encouraged her to become a coach, and he later hired her to her current position. She said that Lynch inspired kids in the community and that “there aren’t many men in the community who kids can look up to as a role model or hero, but he was one.” She went on to say that Lynch was “more than a teacher—he was a father to the fatherless,” including herself in that description.

Lynch’s wife Teresa agreed with that sentiment. She said he had his biological family, a school family, a tennis family, a church family, and a friends family. “He did consider his students and his players like his sons and daughters. Some of the students still keep in contact,” she said. 

Treating everyone as family certainly didn’t mean that Lynch didn’t put effort into his own family, though. Indeed, he’s founded something of a dynasty in the Myrtle Beach area. Lynch and his wife had four daughters: Tara, Te-Anne, Tai, and Taylor. Each of those has married and given the Lynches a total of 12 grandchildren. Te-Anne married John Cahill, the current athletic director for Myrtle Beach High School, and their first four boys have all played tennis for Myrtle Beach High School—the fifth is still a student at Myrtle Beach Middle School, and he also plays tennis. Several of Cahill’s boys were on Lynch’s championship teams. 

Cahill even recounted how Lynch set him up with Te-Anne in high school, saying that Lynch approached Cahill during study hall and asked if the then-teenager had a date to the Christmas Ball. When Cahill said he did not, Lynch encouraged Cahill to ask his daughter out, even going so far as to provide his home phone number for Cahill to call after Cahill was unable to catch Te-Anne in the school hallways.

Even at Early College High School, where Lynch only taught one class of driver’s education each day before driving back to teach at Myrtle Beach, students and staff remember the impact he had on them and the smile that was always on his face. Several students recounted how Lynch always made sure that they practiced driving near Chick-fil-A in case the students hadn’t had breakfast yet that morning, though Lynch would say that navigating the drive-through lane was a tricky thing they needed to practice. 

Others at Early College recalled how Lynch took the time to get to know everyone at the school—whether he taught them or not—well enough to incorporate them into a poem about their class that he performed every year at the junior class’s ring ceremony. 

Early College was a fan of Lynch, and Lynch was also apparently a fan of Early College. His wife, Teresa, said that he loved the school’s program, which helps first-generation college students earn their associate's degree from Horry-Georgetown Technical College while still in high school. Early College also held a day of service for students to give back to the community in honor of Lynch on Friday, Sept. 23.

When asked what Lynch would have thought about having the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center named after him, both his wife Teresa and his son-in-law John Cahill seemed to think he would’ve been too humble to accept.

Teresa thought her husband would’ve said the tennis center already has a good name. The family has been approached several times in the past about naming the tennis center after Lynch. The most recent time they were asked, they thought about what having the center named after him meant. Thinking of the many other named facilities in the area—Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, the Mary C. Canty Recreation Center, the John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center, the Pepper Geddings Recreation Center, Ashley Booth Field, the Ned Donkle Field Complex, etc.—Teresa believed that having the name on there “recalls to us our experience with that person.” She said she hopes that when students, parents, and community members walk into the tennis center and see “Rivers Lynch” as part of the name, they will remember who he was, what he did for the community, and how much he cared for people.

Cahill believed Lynch would’ve simply said how proud he was that Horry County Schools and the City of Myrtle Beach continue to work together to make the tennis court facility the most beautiful one on the Carolina coast. 

Indeed, in the last few years, the facility has added a new hitting wall, a covered awning for additional seating, new deck furniture, and padded concrete bleachers. It has also renovated the hard court surfaces. This is all in addition to the services it continues to offer year-round for members, including 10 courts, the ability for eight of the courts to be lit for night play, clinics for adults and juniors, league play, and a Pro Shop with certified Master Racquet Technicians.

Dr. Phil Render—a member of Myrtle Beach City Council, a graduate of Myrtle Beach High, and a father to one of the members of Lynch’s 2006 championship tennis team—explained how the tennis center came to be. Lynch and then-councilman Wayne Gray developed the idea that, like with Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, Horry County Schools and the City of Myrtle Beach would cooperate to create and maintain a tennis facility. “It’s just been a wonderful partnership, and we certainly appreciate the leadership of the school district,” Render said before adding that  “We feel very blessed to have [Lynch] as a member of our Seahawk family.”

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, also a graduate of Myrtle Beach High, said, “It’s an honor for us to have worked with HCS on this project. This collaboration has been great not just for our community but for all of Horry County.” When asked about the significance of the tennis center and its remodeling, she said,  “It’s our school. It’s embedded in our community. We have so much pride for our Seahawks, and this is part of that pride. We want to keep this facility up and maintained and just the best it can possibly be because it is named after one phenomenal man and we want to keep it up to the standards he deserves.”

Jeremy Howard is HCS’s 2023 support staff of the year and serves as Myrtle Beach High’s head boys tennis coach, head boys volleyball coach, and assistant coach for the girls junior varsity basketball team. Howard really loves that they’ve renovated the courts and are naming them after Lynch, saying  that Lynch “was definitely a mentor of mine all the way down to the day he passed.” Regarding the renovated courts, he said, “You could tell they needed some work done. It’s going to make everything even better for practice for the guys,” and clarified that “now the kids feel safer, so they can go 100%.” 

Howard coached the 2022 boys tennis team to the AAAA state championships this past spring, where they defeated Greenwood to claim the title and finish the year off with a 23-0 record. “To be able to have this opportunity to be a tennis coach and follow [Lynch’s] footsteps was a dream come true,” Howard said before adding “I know he’s smiling. I could see him as if he was here—he’d be cheesing from ear to ear. He’d be saying ‘yeah Jeremy, keep it going!’”

Rivers Cahill was on both Howard’s 2022 championship team and Lynch’s 2019 championship team. As the son of Myrtle Beach High’s athletic director and as the bearer of his grandfather and coach’s name, Rivers carries a lot of the family legacy and says he’s got big shoes to fill. He had a lot to say about his grandfather: “He was my best friend. I knew I could tell him anything and he wouldn’t be mad at me, and he would always be there for me and always be so caring and nice.” 

Thinking of Lynch as his coach, Rivers said, “Playing for my grandfather as the coach was amazing.” He explained that Lynch “was the smartest guy I knew on the tennis court. He knew what to tell me for me to calm down, get out of my head, and start winning.” Like most of Lynch’s students and athletes say, Rivers said that Lynch gave him so many life lessons. “I take those life lessons with me every day and try to instill them in everybody else,” he said. Rivers currently plays tennis for Coastal Carolina University.

Lynch’s son-in-law John Cahill described Lynch as “one of the most positive people I’ve come across” and added that Lynch “loved everybody” and made everybody “feel like they were the most important thing.” When Cahill became Myrtle Beach High’s athletic director, a position that Lynch had held for five years, Cahill said that Lynch shared a lot of stories and gave him a lot of tips to help him be successful—coaching Cahill just like Lynch always coached his students.

Cahill wrapped up his interview with a sentiment about his mentor, teacher, and father-in-law that everyone else’s stories seemed to bear out: “If all of us were half as good as Rivers, the world would be a lot better place.”