Wawasee Tennis

Open Letter To Wawasee Girls Tennis Team (Revisited)

When I was considering taking on the head coaching job for The Lady Warriors, the same advice was given to me from several people, including one of the past coaches.  It was basically this: “Walk away, they’ll never compete, it’s a waste of your time.  They don’t care, they’ll never care and no one will put in the work to change things there. They’ll fight you every inch of the way. That’s just the culture there.”

That bit of advice sealed my decision.  Sounded like a great challenge to me!  If I could turn a program like that around, I could do just about anything in the sport.

Weeks later I met with the former Wawasee AD and we set down to discuss the program and he hired me for the head coaching position.  In our initial discussion, it was estimated it would be a 4-year rebuilding project at minimum until the program was competitive again.

The first year a few girls committed to a new direction I had in turning the program around. Working hard to achieve something that no other Lady Warrior tennis team had accomplished in more than a decade: simply win in their conference.

In 2015, I took it on myself to lead by example.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the players and coaches on a perennial last-place team would need to work harder than any other team to make up for this historical deficit. That year I began working with the USPTA, later became a certified professional tennis trainer.  I spent a better part of two years studying, attending workshops and have since been continously on-court training junior players, learning how to be a better coach and trainer, and developing the tennis academy in the Wawasee area to promote growth within the sport.

In 2016, the Lady Warriors won their first conference match in more than a decade.  Their record improved to 5-10 (1-6 in the conference).  A lot of work was put in, but at least there was progress.

This past spring in 2017 (season #3 for me), I sent out a call-to-action to players and parents via this site.  The culture of losing there needed to end.  Wawasee won 2 conference matches this past season, improving their record to 7-13 (2-5 in the conference). By this time, I finally began to see a bigger part of the team out with me in the offseason, taking private lessons, attending summer practices.

Now season #4 of my coaching the girls tennis team is now only 6 months away. Six months to prep for what may arguably be the most important year in this tennis program’s last fifteen years. And there’s this culture issue that seems to recycle itself from time to time here: that winning doesn’t matter, high school sports doesn’t really matter.

To my players: While we can’t fully control what we achieve, we can, however, control the time we invest in what we commit to.  I’m not sure when it became acceptable to float through a sport (as a player or as a coach) and be fine with being mediocre.  Surely not at this stage in life, at a high school level.  Allowing this does not teach you an important life-lesson about work ethic and how it will positively impact your lives and careers outside of sports.  Yes, sports should be about the experience and having fun with teammates, but it’s just as important to commit to something greater than ourselves (the team) and backing up that commitment in the pursuit to be the best we can be, to strive towards WINNING.

Although it’s been some time since I sent out that call-to-action post, this is a simple reminder that there is more work to be done, more to achieve. As student-athletes at the high school level you are old enough to do the right thing, to commit to the team you joined and become a positive force within that team. Anyone who joins a team I coach, it should be noted that it should be a student-athlete’s duty to work towards contributing to their team towards winning. Being in a sport for the sole purpose of just having a good time defeats many important components of playing sports, including developing a sound work ethic and being a good, productive teammate.  Winning IS fun, but that is oftentimes forgotten in a losing culture.

My expectation to any student-athlete joining the 2018 girls tennis team is to leave the losing culture at the gates. Winning is important here, but even more important is the preparation and drive to win and the work that goes along with it.

You have a chance to accomplish here what no other team has been able to accomplish for more than a decade this next season.

Please don’t lose focus of this.

It’s time to end this drought and turn in a winning season for our school.

—Coach Staley

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