Wawasee Tennis

Open Letter to Wawasee Girls Tennis Team and Parents

Dear Student-Athletes and Parents,

The 2016‑17 season is right around the corner and I wanted to take some time to reach out to student-athletes and their parents about my goals and expectations for the coming year.

I’ve expressed concerns to our new athletic director about the losing culture surrounding our sport and program. Moving forward, in my third season with the girls team, I feel that a major overhaul is necessary.

Over my two seasons involved, we’ve made improvements in many areas, but we continue to face a culture where winning and losing doesn’t seem to matter. In my opinion, a decade of last-place finishes in our conference is unacceptable. I’ve been given many excuses why this is a reality (and I accept none of them), and I’m here to offer a solution that involves not only student-athletes’ renewed dedication, but their family’s support too.

My expectations for any student-athlete who wants to be part of the team this spring and beyond are to strive for excellence, overcome challenges, and to benefit your team through commitment and hard work.

We live in a culture where kids are rewarded for participation instead of achievement. While I feel this may be beneficial to younger children, I don’t believe this is healthy or beneficial to student-athletes at the high school level who are on the brink of adulthood. As a coach, I feel that embracing competition and striving for excellence within this program will eventually lead to growth and benefits in many different facets of their lives (including future jobs, promotions, and other things that transcend the sport of tennis).

I realize this may not be the most popular stance and type of program to run in this type of culture, but I do believe this is best for the student-athlete.

While winning isn’t everything, striving to win through hard work is everything.

I also believe that the current culture of accepting loss as the norm will eventually cost student-athletes future opportunities and chances to succeed, to grow in other areas of their lives.

I wouldn’t dedicate myself to this team and their continued improvement if I didn’t think I could build a successful program within our conference. I have no doubt with the support of parents and the belief of student-athletes that we can become a top contender in our conference. This achievement would transform a perennial last-place team and usher in a new winning culture and era, which will ultimately lead Wawasee High School to have some of the best junior tennis players in northern Indiana. Even by focusing on winning at the JV level can help build a better character and work ethic for a student-athlete, which can have a lasting positive impact on a student-athlete’s life.

I’ve developed tennis players through the USPTA, where their skills— physical, mental and competitive—have elevated their play to compete at much higher levels. Four years in a high school tennis program of this caliber can be an amazingly transformational experience (if embraced), but will also have its challenges, as I will hold student-athletes to a higher standard. It will be your job and, I hope, your goal to become a better tennis player, one who is willing to put in the extra time and focus to compete against your peers, in opposing programs in and outside our conference.

The culture in sports at any school may conveniently be blamed on coaches, the athletic departments, or other scapegoats, but the makeup of the culture also lies as much in the hands of its student-athletes and their support networks (parents and other family members) to push to achieve something greater. Most great athletes have one thing in common: a mentor or mentors who help guide and push them to achieve goals. If they enjoy the sport of tennis, and are involved, parents, coaches, and other important people in their lives are oftentimes the difference-makers.

Even student-athletes who have no aspiration to continue playing sports at the next level will benefit from the lessons learned in the right culture.

As a coach, I want to run a program with a culture that enhances the student-athlete, not limits them, and I know parents ultimately want this as well.

Although I’m a certified professional coach, I have no expectations of training girls for the road to the U.S. Open or Wimbledon. Wearing my high school coaching hat, I’m solely focused on what they can first achieve against other high schools in their area. But if there are girls or boys whose aspirations transcend high school tennis, and have developed the skills to compete at the collegiate level or beyond, then this is a solid conference and will become a top-notch program to help them reach these goals.  I am always here to talk with families about opportunities to make this happen.

For those players new to the sport, I’m a coach who wants each of you to maximize your own abilities. You will be motivated and pushed throughout your time in my program to meet this challenge. But the true nature of winning is to get the most out of your ability, not necessarily to focus on the end results or final scores of your competitions.

If everyone on this team strives for this one simple goal: to work to be the best player they can be over their four years, then Wawasee will take its place at the top of this conference rather than remaining at the bottom.

This is about breaking the cycle of a losing culture.

This 2016‑17 team has the potential to be one of the best tennis teams in the history of the school, but if I’m the only one who believes that statement and works toward achieving that goal, we will ultimately fall short, snug within a culture that embraces mediocrity.

As a parent, I don’t want that for my children. As a coach, I don’t want that for my student-athletes. And since I run this program as head coach, I can only do things one way: I want to win, and that should be the goal of any team at this level. As long as I get 100% from my athletes, that is the victory, and winning the conference will follow one day.

So when you step foot into this program this year, you will see various changes and a new attitude and direction that embraces the importance of building a winning team. And I will not apologize for running a program that strives for anything short of excellence.

As for those worried about having fun and socializing, this is an important reason why I’m a professional tennis coach. There is no point in promoting a sport and wanting it to grow without having fun and enjoying teammates. And there will be plenty of opportunities to socialize with each other, but our work comes first—each one of you has a job to do as part of this team. When we give 100% on the courts, during practices, and in matches, we strive to become better players, a better team, a better coach. I’ll be the first one to step back and celebrate with my team. However, if there are disruptions to achieving my goals for all players, then I’ll also be the first to step in, correct, and properly discipline these setbacks, individually or as a team.

As a three-sport athlete growing up, tennis has remained my main focus sport because I’ve witnessed firsthand how it transforms lives. It is a life sport to be enjoyed at all ages, recreationally or competitively. So I take my job and this sport very seriously. As a coach, I have a lot of knowledge to pass on to student-athletes to complement their education and to develop successful and fulfilling careers and lives.

So it is my responsibility to run a program that can achieve greatness. For the past two years, I’ve been affected by the culture and perspective surrounding this program. And this year I’m done feeling any pull toward it or connection to it.

This program will be run differently. It will have a new culture and greater expectations going forward.

This letter serves as this notice. What follows this season will be action on my part and my coaching staff to change the course of this program. And with any change there will undoubtedly be difficulties and opposition. So this is me communicating with my team and extended team (the parents and families) so that everybody is aware of my goals and intentions ahead of time.

I strive to be the best at whatever I commit to (and, by nature, this will always remain a work-in-progress). Whether it’s in my career as a publisher, my job as a coach and trainer in the USPTA, my role as father or husband, or being a high school tennis coach. Life is short, so I would advise anyone to be the best you can be at the things you choose to become a part of.  Your student-athlete who commits to being a part of this team will be held to the same standard.

If student-athletes or parents have concerns about changes in the program, I’m always open to discuss, outside of practices and matches.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to the 2016‑17 girls tennis season and creating a new winning culture!


Take care.



Shane Staley
Head Coach, Wawasee Girls Tennis

USPTA Certified Professional Trainer

Owner, Staley Tennis Academy



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