LAURINBURG — Michael Way was a successful softball coach at Scotland High for four years. So, forgive the people who did a double-take when they saw him patrolling the sidelines of the girl’s tennis team last fall.
Way was brought on as tennis coach late last summer, and his inaugural year at the position came with its fair share of challenges. Not only was it his first year coaching tennis, a sport he himself had never played, but the team he inherited was also largely inexperienced.
“For the most part we were very young,” Way said. We only had six girls on the team, three of them freshman so it was kind of an up-and-down year but for my first year it went pretty good.”
When Way first watched his players practice, he soon found out that he would need to spend a lot of time teaching them the fundamentals. With some assistance from Atonda Ellis, the boy’s tennis coach, he was able to do just that.
“We spent a large part of the time before the season started on as basic a thing as the rules,” Way said. “We had some girls last year that we had to make sure knew how to play the matches, which side of the court they were supposed to be on, when they were supposed to be there, how to keep score, and those kinds of things.”
The players were forced to suffer through a lot of growing pains, but they weren’t the only ones taking a crash course.
“It was a learning curve, I actually played high school and college golf,” Way said. “I didn’t play tennis in high school so I was just kind of learning how the high school thing went.”
Having a love of teaching, Way also continues to lead softball, which will begin after the school’s tennis rackets are returned to storage.
“I really enjoy the coaching part of it, with the exception of during the matches a lot of it is out of your control,” Way said. “There’s not much you can do to help them while they’re playing so that I’m not crazy about, but that’s part of it.”
Many of last year’s struggles stemmed from a shortage of players. With only six on the team, the lack of depth would come back to haunt Scotland in many of its matches.
Way said that should not be as big of an issue this year — he hosted an interest meeting at the school in the spring and 18 girls signed up. While he doesn’t expect all of them to try out in the fall, Way believes most of them will. The first official tryout will be held at Scotland High on Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. He said the more players there are in practice, the more it will help the team during their matches.
“It will be a little more competitive in practice and having to work for their spot a little more will help them,” Way said.
The first match of the season will be on Aug. 28 at home against Purnell Swett. Admission to Scotland homes games are free, and Way wants to see the community take advantage.
“We’d certainly appreciate any support that we can get and the girls love having people out there to watch,” Way said. “When you get a little tired and get down a little bit it makes it a little easier when you have people watching and cheering for you.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.