Chattanooga State baseball coach a success on the diamond and dance floor

Chattanooga State baseball coach a success on the diamond and dance floor

March 27th, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Greg Dennis is a baseball coach and dance instructor at Chattanooga State Community College.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

FACTFILE ABOUT HIM

* Age: 49.

* Hometown: Chattanooga.

* Education: Bachelor's degree, physical education, Baylor University; master's degree, education, Baylor University.

* Family: Wife, Mary; three sons, Zach, 20, Fielder, 17, Mitch, 10.

* Hobby: Reading. My boys and Mary got me a Nook, and I take it on the [baseball] trips on the road, and I am reading all the time. I just love to.

* Dance faux pas: At Collin County, we used to do a recital at the end of each semester, and it was all of the dance classes. ... It was a big thing in front of about 500 people, and it was a fundraiser for the dance department. ... We would let the class choose, and one semester ... one of the dances we did was "Bye Bye Bye" by 'N Sync, and I got out there and did that with them to my great disdain because I told them, "I'll do whatever we do." So we went out there, and it was not my finest moment, but I worked my way through it, and I'm sure they still chuckle about that one when they think back on it.

* Savor the moment: He said his greatest baseball triumphs, both as a player, were the Class AA state high school championship when he was with Notre Dame High School in 1979 and the junior college World Series championship when he was with McLennan Community College in 1983.

He's more at home in spikes and a cap tugged tightly over his forehead, but Chattanooga State Community College baseball coach Greg Dennis is also the school's popular social dance instructor.

Although he disdained high school dances at Notre Dame High School, he picked up the skill in community college in Texas, took additional classes at Baylor University and has been adept at it since.

"I've been teaching it since 1987," said Dennis, assistant professor and baseball coach at CSCC since 2004.

He previously taught dance at his alma mater, McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and at Collin County Community College in Plano, Texas, before coming back to Chattanooga.

When Dennis was hired for the Chattanooga State job, his offer to also teach dance was gratefully accepted.

And while his coaching prowess has helped the baseball Tigers win more than 300 games, including conference titles in 2007 and 2010, he said there are attributes related to dance that can help both athletes and nonathletes.

Q: How did you get involved in teaching dancing?

A: When I went to McLennan in junior college, the assistant coach there, Dub Kilgo, taught the dance class, popular social dance. And Mark, my older brother, took it with Kevin Kollmansperger [like Mark, a former teammate at Notre Dame High School]. When I got out there, Mark said, "You need to take his class. It's a great class." So, my sophomore year, both [former Tyner High School player] David Turner and [I] took it. ... We just took it out there, and we had a blast, and then I came back after playing a little pro ball and volunteer-coached at McLennan while I was finishing up at Baylor [University], and when Coach Kilgo got the Arizona State assistant job, I was hired, and I took over his classes.

Q: Is it true you didn't attend a dance when you were in high school?

A: No, it's true. I was socially inept, I believe. I just wasn't functional socially, so I just tended to stay out of social settings as much as possible. Probably not the worst thing in the world.

Q: What is valuable for the average person about taking dance?

A: We talk at the beginning of class about ... how from a social-skills situation, it's a great way of coming into a setting and being confident and being able to put yourself out there a little bit in an arena where a lot of people aren't comfortable ... and should be. From a lifetime fitness [standpoint], it's a great thing. It's something like bowling or tennis. You can do it the rest of your life. I've had so many students all the way back to my days at McLennan or Collin County that I still get in touch with ... that say they still go out and dance. Their kids now dance. I just think from a social standpoint and from a staying-active standpoint, it's a great activity.

Q: Are there advantages for athletes to take dance?

A: I think [there are]. Normally, I try to get at least three or four of my guys in there. I've had as many as 10 or 12 at a time. Again, I think it's great [for] tempo, understanding rhythm. When you're playing sports, footwork and things like that are very rhythm-related. I know I've found with my infielders, it's been a great help to them to be able to be a little more conscious of what their feet are doing and what kind of movement and whether it's just a grapevine step or whatever -- learning how to do that well and the agility that's involved with it.

Q: Have you ever done any professional dancing?

A: No, no. I tell [students] when I first come in -- the first day of class we do syllabus and all that -- and I say, "Let me tell you something. I'm probably the only baseball coach in America that's teaching folk dance, ballroom dance" -- we do some country-western -- "[and] I am knowledgeable about what I do, but I am by no means a professional." No studio's going to pick me up. ... I'm grassroots. I know what I know.