Girls varsity tennis player Caroline Caldwell, a Clarke Central High School senior, practices serve against Flowery Branch on Feb. 28. The CCHS girls varsity tennis team has a large number of starting players who are seniors, which leave the team lacking veteran players for the 2017-18 school year. “I hope (the tennis program) stays together. I hope people who are even remotely interested in tennis will try out because no one will get cut from the team. The worse that can happen is you have to practice every Friday until you make the varsity team,” Crain said. Photo by Prana Maldonado Collins.
By ELENA GILBERTSON HALL – Staff Writer
Clarke Central High School varsity tennis players stretch next to the court, rackets swinging as they warm up. Today, they are focused on the match, but next year.
The majority of the Clarke Central High School varsity tennis team’s starting players are seniors, meaning the team will have very few returning players for the 2017-18 school year. The girls varsity tennis team has had several successful years in competition, but is expecting next year to be one for rebuilding the team.
“We’re just going to have to rebuild. I’ve done it before. We had three or four years in the early 2000s where we made it very deep into state. It would go from one year winning region, going to the final four in the state tournament, and the next year I don’t have one experienced player. It’s just one of those things that happens,” head varsity tennis coach Stephen Hinson said.
Hinson has a strategy for combating the lack of players on the team.
“I recruit, I recruit,” Hinson said. “I just find folks who have some experience, convince them that they are good enough to come out here and I just try to develop the talent. (I also) try to get them to involved in tennis lessons outside of school.”
To build talent and experience, Hinson currently provides after-school practice clinics for beginning players. At these clinics, players are taught the fundamentals of the game, and may gain enough experience to fill empty spots on the varsity team next year.
“I’ll have a clinic on Friday where I teach lessons. So, I’ll work with a kid and it’s beneficial in many ways, but particularly, kids learn to play tennis. And ones who really like it, they’ll actually start playing a lot and get to where they qualify for varsity,” Hinson said.
Girls varsity tennis player Mary Caroll Waller, a CCHS junior, highly recommends the team to any students who are interested.
“The team is really fun, and we have an amazing coach. And then just about the sport in general, you can play it your whole life so you never have to worry about aging out of tennis,” Waller said.