Sunday marked a sad day in the Greater Alton area.
After a tumultuous battle with liver cancer, Alton High boys’ and girls’ head tennis coach Robert Logan passed away. He was 30.
Robert slipped away in California, where he was with family, trying to get treatment for his recovery when he made a turn for the worse. Originally diagnosed in 2011, the cancer returned in 2016. Until the end Robert showed grace, hope and positivity. It was what made him so beloved by many, especially within the tennis community.
I had the privilege of working with him over the past few years, getting to know him. While privately I knew he was dealing with the illness, I had no idea just how bad it was. Never once did he complain, lose his upbeat attitude or give in to his disease. He displayed a maturity well beyond the age of 30.
“Outside of his mom and dad and (his wife) Kayla, I don’t think anybody knows the pain he went through and the pain he was in when he was coaching,” Mike Walters said. Walters is the Marquette Catholic boys’ coach and Robert’s uncle.
As a close family member and a peer in the coaching community, Walters offered a unique perspective on Robert.
“When I was offered the job at Marquette I called Robert and I said, ‘OK, I’m the new boys’ coach at Marquette, what do I need to do?’” Walters said. “He started laughing and he always called me by my college nickname, which was Schlep. He said, ‘Schlep, come on; you and I will sit down and we’ll work this out. I’ll show you what you need to do and how you need to run the practices and when you have matches how to run the matches.’ We’d go over everything and then we’d end up talking politics because he was very astute at politics. He had a common sense attitude about politics and he knew what I did (Madison County Board Member, District 7). We’d end up talking tennis for 15 minutes and an hour of politics.”
Walters added, “He loved to listen and he wanted to learn. As you watched him coach he was always learning and watching what his kids were doing and what they were doing well and what they needed to work on.”
Jesse Macias, who coached with Robert for eight years at AHS, will miss his friendship and his contribution to the program.
Robert graduated from Marquette in 2005 where he was a two-time state qualifier in singles for tennis and a three-time state qualifier in golf. He went onto Lewis and Clark Community College and advanced to nationals two years in a row as a tennis player.
Following that, he joined Macias at Alton as an unpaid assistant in ‘07. The next year he was given a paid assistant’s job and worked as a teacher’s aide in the district. He became the head girls’ coach in 2010 and was appointed to the helm of the boys’ program in ‘16, when Macias stepped down.
Macias is the interim coach of the girls.
“He handled himself well and put a lot into being a professional and being the best coach he could be, but he was young,” Macias said. “When he first came on he worked well with the kids because of his age, but he handled himself like a professional. He was serious about being a good coach and making the program better. I like the fact he got to coach both programs. I think it shows a lot for his abilities and the faith the district had in him. I know he was proud of that.”
Macias wouldn’t trade his time on the courts with Robert for anything and it was a lot of time.
“He was my assistant for eight years, I was his assistant for a few years and when you coach two seasons together we were on the courts about 10 months out of the year,” Macias said. “We spent a lot of time together.
“When he came on board it was just a great time for Alton tennis.”
His coaching peers, like Dave Lipe at Edwardsville, have the utmost respect for him. Lipe remembered the poise and toughness Robert showed during his fight with cancer. It’s something he’ll never forget.
“I remember him very vividly coming out to the sectional when Alton was hosting and it was obvious how much he wanted to be there and he told me about a radiation procedure he’d just had done to recover,” Lipe said. “He’d just come back from I believe Oklahoma hours before the sectional started. He was working with his players and he looked so gaunt at the time, but he wanted to be out there so badly and it made a very large impression on me.”
Unfortunately, Robert had to toughen up at a young age. When he was 16 and competing as a prep athlete as an Explorer, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which can cause lots of abdominal pain and fatigue. It also ultimately led to high risk for the cancer that was his demise.
He never let that get him down though.
“I think the battle hardened him, matured him,” Lipe said. “I think it made him understand some things and put them in perspective. Robert was a classy, gentle person before he got sick and obviously he was battling Crohn’s disease long before he ever had cancer. That probably gave him a unique perspective some folks don’t have.”
Logan left a lasting impression on most people he came in contact with, especially his players. Macias said he’s been talking with many alums and current players about their love of Robert and how they are dealing with his loss.
“Kids are pretty resilient, but the girls who have been around awhile like Abby Fischer, Sam Clayton, Hannah Macias, it affects them a little more because they were closer to him,” Macias said. “I’ve got a lot of calls and texts from alumni, who played with him for four years and had stayed in touch with him. He’d affected a lot of lives and had an impact on a lot of people.”
Walters said it was because of the way he made people feel about themselves. Robert had a way of making everyone feel special.
“Whether you were the best player on the team or a kid who was never going to be good at tennis, Robert made you feel like you were so much better because of the hard work you’d put in,” Walters said. “It was amazing how he made everybody feel like they were the best. He could take a girl and even though she wasn’t very good, he made her feel like Serena Williams, or a boy feel like Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. He didn’t give them false hope, but he’d say, ‘Hey, just think of where you were when you started. Look at what you can do now.’”
Alton director of athletics Jeff Alderman wished all of his coaches were as dedicated and professional as Robert. He knows he will be missed.
“He battled (his illness) with great courageousness,” Alderman said. “There were days and practices when I’m sure a lot of average people wouldn’t have been able to fulfill their duties, but he hung in there and kept battling. I really believe the reason he did that was his love of kids and in the fact he was a role model to all of us.”
Alderman said the district and athletics program will do something to honor Robert when the time is right, but now is everyone’s time to individually memorialize him.
I could probably fill this entire paper with stories I heard about him, or even my personal experiences. He was a class act, wise beyond his years, a true professional and loved by all.
He leaves behind a slew of loving family members, including his wife, Kayla; his mother and father, David and Theresa; and two brothers, Chris and Patrick. Visitation will be 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 717 State St. in Alton.
Rest in peace, Robert Logan.
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