Influential former Bemidji tennis coach and middle school teacher Mark Fodness passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home on Wednesday, Nov. 25. He was 61 years old.
Fodness was a prominent figure in Bemidji tennis for both the high school and collegiate programs. He coached the Bemidji high school girls and boys programs from 1986-93 before returning for another stint leading the Lumberjacks from 2010-19. Among his accomplishments, Fodness helped guide the Bemidji girls program to its first-ever state tournament appearance in 1989.
A 1982 graduate of Bemidji State, Fodness was named the head coach of his alma mater’s women’s tennis program in 2013. In his final four seasons from 2016-19, the Beavers eclipsed 10 wins every year while twice establishing new program-best marks for wins in a season with 11 in 2016 and 12 the following year.
In August 2019, Fodness announced his retirement from coaching both the Bemidji high school girls and Bemidji State, and was succeeded by his son Kyle Fodness. In May 2020, he announced that he would be stepping down as head coach of the BHS boys program. Fodness’ teams across all three programs compiled a total of 405 victories.
Fodness’ involvement in Bemidji tennis took on a new form in August, as he was the analyst for KBUN Sportsradio’s first-ever radio tennis broadcast when the Bemidji girls defeated Rocori in their season opener.
Originally a native of New Ulm, Fodness was a longtime middle school social studies teacher at the Bemidji Middle School. In addition to tennis, he was also active at various times in coaching youth soccer and baseball, along with football, basketball, baseball, and speech at the middle school and high school speech and debate.
According to his obituary, services are pending. A celebration of life has been planned for June.