Student coaching changes boys tennis team dynamic

After gaining a new head coach a year ago, the boys tennis team has been adapting to a new style of coaching that they didn’t experience before. This new style focuses on a more student-focused approach to the sport.


Due to a switch in coaching after the COVID-19 pandemic, the boys’ tennis team has developed a student-centered coaching philosophy.
According to senior Bada Ekecs, “the past two seasons have been different than the others, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Boys tennis coach James O’Neil took on the team after returning to school in person after COVID-19.
“I coached multiple sports here at Souderton, but this was very new. It was refreshing for me, and working with the high school kids has been really nice,” O’Neil said.
While coaching experience wasn’t new to O’Neil, tennis proved to be a “learning curve.”
“We’re all pretty new to coaching tennis, so it’s been quite the experience for us so far,” O’Neil said.
Ekecs sees O’Neil’s coaching style as more of a “hands-off approach” to the sport.
“He lets us warm up and run drills mostly by ourselves, which can be really nice for when we want to focus on certain things,” Ekecs said.
There has been an increase in responsibility for the older members of the team to help out with the newer players.
“There’s definitely more pressure on those of us who have more experience,” Ekecs said.
O’Neil believes that having the seniors as role models can be really helpful for building a cohesive team.
“I think that team in itself is very important,” O’Neil said. “I really do think that with student athletes, learning from older kids and stepping up to take on their role yourself one day is really a much deeper way of learning for an athlete.”
Sometimes it can be nerve racking to be a senior on the team, especially when newer to the sport, according to senior Eli Poehlman.
“I feel like since I’m newer to the sport, I can’t necessarily be a great leader. A good leader knows when to take initiative and when to step back.”
Nevertheless, seniors hold a major role in keeping the team “on their game.”
‘The season has been going really well,” Ekecs said. We have a really big team of about 22 kids, and everyone seems to be doing pretty well.”
The “skill gap” in tennis can make it difficult for coaching and leading, according to Ekecs.
“I think that there’s a large gap between freshmen who have never played before, people who are new to the sport and people who have been playing for much longer, and that makes it difficult to cater to everyone,” Ekecs said.
No matter what, the team is “working cohesively,” and trying their best to make the most of this season.