In a lot of ways, the disagreeable early spring weather couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Southfield-Lathrup girls tennis team, according to coach Velma Smith.
The Chargers have just three girls with experience on the squad, and with wet weather forcing the team off the courts, Smith admits she hasn’t had the opportunity to coach as much as she would like.
“It’s been very difficult to get a handle on this because of the rain,” she said, adding that the soaked courts often meant classroom time going over strategy. “But talking about it and actually doing it are two different things.”
Though Smith does see signs of a bright future.
Much of the team is young and showing raw talent that has the coach excited.
Smith mentioned Essence Eaton, a freshman at No. 1 singles, as one with promise.
“She’s competitive and has a good serve. … She’s very young, but also very skillful.”
Junior Jennifer Wardell holds down the No. 2 singles spot.
“She played doubles the first two years but has been able to move up. She’s playing quite well this year,” the coach said.
In doubles, the No. 1 team of seniors, Ryane Thomas and Ashley Tutwiler, bring some experience to the team.
“They played together the last two years. They just jell really well together. The nice thing about Ashley is that she can do a lot of running around on the court,” Smith said.
Smith added that Thomas hits the forehand off both sides.
“It’s crazy to see. She never has to work on her backhand because she just switches the racket,” Smith said with a laugh. “But she plays well, and it works for her.”
At press time, the Chargers were 1-2 overall, but expecting to get in a lot more matches. Smith said there is a span when the team will play a match for six straight days, which is good experience, but also limits how much Smith can actually work with the girls.
“It’s difficult now because you have to try and coach them in between sets,” she said.
Smith said her goal this season is to have the girls walk away from the season with a love for the game.
“I want them to understand that it’s a life skill because the same things you do on the court, you do off the court,” she said. “You have to have integrity and sportsmanship. You call balls in and out in tennis. It’s your call, but you want to be honest about what you do. So a lot of things that I teach in tennis carries over in real life.”