SSHS girls tennis coach Lynn Rapp has guided her program since the school opened its doors in the fall of 2001. The boys program has had just two coaches in its 12 years of existence, Hal Wilkins and Rick Staggs. Personal reasons forced Staggs to step down after the recently completed school year.
The Spanish Springs athletic administration turned to a veteran coach in its stable to fill that boys tennis coaching vacancy. Brian Thompson, who this spring announced he’d be stepping away from the Cougars’ baseball program after working as an assistant coach at some level for the past 12 years, will be the new SSHS boys tennis coach.
“I always knew I wanted to keep coaching,” Thompson said. “I applied and was fortunate enough to get the job. Our athletic administrators, Jen (Ritch) and Art (Anderson), both encouraged me. Rick has been gracious in helping and Lynn will be too. All of their support made it easy.”
One of the reasons prep tennis coaching positions can be hard to fill with good people is that there are fewer people interested and qualified to teach the sport.
“We had sent the notice of the opening out to our staff and we didn’t have any replies. Initially, there was not a lot of interest,” SSHS athletic Director Art Anderson said. “It’s one of the tougher sports to get a good coach, There’s not a lot of people with that specialty in tennis. In fact, I think six other schools were or are looking for a tennis coach. We didn’t want to fill it with just anybody.
“Then it just happened to be that Brian stepped down from baseball. It was presented to him and he was ready for a new challenge.”
Thompson, who teaches in the credit recovery program at Spanish Springs, has already brought on board John Rogers to be his assistant. Rogers is a teacher at Fernley High but is an assistant on the Spanish Springs boys varsity basketball team. He played tennis growing up and later coached it at the prep level in New Mexico. His teams there even won four district titles before placing at state.
“Spanish Springs has been good to me,” Rogers said. “ When Art talked to me, it seemed best for me to be an assistant since I’m not teaching there. I’ve talked to Brian, we want to attract some new kids to tennis, even get some younger kids playing before high school so there’re introduced to the sport earlier.”
Recruiting players from the SSHS hallways will be the first task of Thompson and Rogers. Thompson said only five players return from last fall’s roster. Considering nine players are needed for a varsity roster, the coaches have some work to do.
“I want athletes, who aren’t playing football or soccer, and want to play a fall sport,” Thompson said. “There were no freshmen on the team last year. It just makes sense a four-year player can be better than a three-year player so we’ve got to get some freshmen out.
“In the past, tennis practice started two weeks before school even started. With our new school calendar we’ll be in school for a few days before practice starts. So I can get there and start talking to kids right at the start of school too.”
Thompson said he’s already talking to his contacts at the middle schools and talking to athletes he knows who don’t play a fall sport, working to convince them to give tennis a try.
“The hand-eye coordination you get from tennis can only help our basketball and baseball athletes. I’d like to get some of those kids out here,” Thompson said. “Some of best the tennis players we’ve had here are kids that played multiple sports.”
Thompson has already put a summer program in place. He’ll open the SSHS tennis courts, starting at 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, starting June 19. He’d like any parents or potential players interested in Cougars boys tennis to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My competitive nature says we can build it to be one of the best teams in the area,” Thompson said. “We want to build and then get bigger and better. That starts with numbers and athletes, including freshmen. That’s how you start a program.”