The Friday Harbor boys tennis program enters the 2014 season on life-support.
On the eve of competition, prospective opponents shied away from putting the Wolverines on their calendar because of the absence of bodies on the Friday Harbor roster, and the team at the moment lacks anything resembling a match schedule for the season ahead. In fact, with an early season turnout totaling just two players, both new to the program, first-year head coach Ben Troutman and company may likely end up losing the entire season without a single swing of the racquet.
“The magic number is six,” Troutman said of amount of players needed to cement a schedule. “We’ll keep practicing and working on our game, and hope for the best.”
In the meantime, sophomore Griffin Cuomo and freshman Erich Atwell will surely benefit from what effectively amount to private lessons from one of the island’s premier tennis players.
Still, Troutman, a Friday Harbor Middle School faculty member and former collegiate tennis player, inherits a once-proud program that even longtime coach Dick Barnes struggled to keep replenished with new recruits in the last several seasons of a 26-year tenure at the helm. In contrast, participation on the girls tennis team, which competes in the spring, has surged over the last several years.
Why the lack of interest? Hard to say, but with overall enrollment at the high school in steady decline and with football, and now soccer, competing for bodies, whether the extended dip in participation proves fatal for the boys tennis program remains to be seen.
Athletic Director Rod Turnbull said that the district is committed to keeping the program alive if even only a few students remain enthusiastic and dedicated to the sport. Tennis can be sanctioned as either a “team” or an “individual” sport, and that the program can continue with a minimum of three players, and that an opportunity for post-season play exists even if other schools decline to participate against Friday Harbor as part of a regular-season schedule.
Nevertheless, Turnbull cautions that a severely down-sized program may not make financial sense in the long run.
So, with the boys tennis program on the brink of collapse, the question obviously becomes… tennis, anyone?