By Coach Everett Gee
I am a retired physician with a wife and five kids, so one can only imagine how crazy and chaotic our household might be.
It was a hot summer day and my two boys, Ethan, 11, and Ryan, 13, were cooped up in the house and as usual started getting on each other’s nerves.
But today was different as Ethan refused to be abused by his older sibling anymore and started fighting back by swinging a golf club.
Thinking quickly to try to defuse the situation, I put Ethan in the car and loaded some old tennis balls and rackets and drove up the hill to the local tennis court. Ethan was still steaming when we stepped onto the court and I fed him balls and each ball sailed high over the back fence.
This was the first time that either boy showed an interest in tennis. After 50 to 60 balls were hit, Ethan was ready to resume his normal life at home.
Later that week, we had Ryan join us but instead of balls sailing over the back fence they started hitting balls at each other. This went on for a month or so til tennis instructor Julie Heussenstamm recruited the boys to play on a local youth tennis team.
With encouragement and instruction, she transformed the boys into players loving the game. Over the next year, it was hard going even a day without hitting tennis balls. They both started playing local tournaments with some success. Ryan, in his freshman year, became the No. 3 player on varsity and was part of a successful Laguna team, which lost in the quarter-final CIF playoffs.
This year, after nine seniors graduated from the team, Ryan is the top singles player.
Ethan also made varsity this year as a freshman and is part of the number one doubles team.
Last week was stellar for the boys as Ryan became the Orange Coast League champion in singles and Ethan along with his partner, Alex Duong, became the Orange Coast League champion in doubles.
As for me, I feel very proud and blessed to see my boys grow up.
Thanks to coach Don Davis, who now is a good friend, gave me the opportunity by appointing me assistant coach. The most common question I am asked is how did the boys get good so quickly? I would have to say it’s because they love the game. They did not have any private lessons and we certainly did not have the money to attend tennis academies, but what we did have is a lot of time on the court and a lot of fun doing so.
My last shout out goes to all the wonderful kids and parents who like us enjoy getting together to hit a fuzzy yellow ball over the net.
The author is the LBHS assistant tennis coach.