The pre-season territory is strikingly familiar for Friday Harbor tennis coach Dick Barnes.
A year after being able to have a single practice each day for the entire squad, Barnes split this year’s team into two and is once again running back-to-back daily practice sessions in order to give each player as much one-on-one instruction as possible, and to apply as evenly as possible his on-court expertise.
That’s because a total of 22 girls turned out to participate on the 2014 team; only a dozen turned out a year ago. And that’s just fine with the dean of the Friday Harbor High School coaching ranks, now in his 26th year at the helm of the school tennis program. The more to introduce to what can be a lifelong recreation, the merrier.
“It’s always good to have a ton of girls, literally,” Barnes said. “Twenty girls at 100 pounds each, that equals a ton.”
As any former player knows, a Barnes’ practice typically includes a healthy dose of jokes, puns and play-on-words, in addition, of course, to concentrated work on skills and strategy. (Ask him about “striking a happy medium,” if you dare.)
Kidding aside, Barnes has his work cut out for him. While a number of familiar faces return to the court, like seniors Meagan Anderson, Roxanne Bormann, Marina LeDouc and Maddy Marinkovich, nearly half the squad (10) are first-year players, including three freshmen, one of whom, Yasmin Sarah, will likely inherit the No. 1 singles slot, somewhat by default.
“She was the team manager for me last year and brought a couple others along with her this year,” Barnes said of Yasmin. “So, I got one who knows what she’s doing and two (freshmen) who will be starting from scratch.”
Barnes said the girls, perhaps more so than boys, prefer to play doubles.
“I think it’s about a comfort level, having someone else out there playing by your side,” he said.
But whether the game is doubles or singles, or the lessons of the day is about the overhead smash or playing the net, Barnes revels in the opportunity to both teach the skills and promote the virtues of the game.