The sun slowly begins to set as the players patiently wait their turn in line on the tennis courts just north of the Combs High School campus. First-year boys head coach Dr. Dave Nelson sits in a folding chair just a few feet away from the baseline next to a cage filled with balls.
He methodically bounces each ball, one at time, towards the player whose turn it is in the rotation.
It’s certainly not the most difficult drill, nor the most challenging, but it doesn’t matter to Dr. Nelson.
He’s looking to establish a workman-like process as the Coyotes’ tennis program has gone back-to-the-basics, you might say.
Attention to detail trumps trickery.
“They had a couple bad years so I wanted to help them understand how to play tennis, first and foremost,” Dr. Nelson said to Sports360AZ.com. “It’s really simple. Just put the ball back over the net and the rest will take care of itself.”
Whatever Coach Nelson is selling, the Coyote players are certainly buying.
“He wants us to keep trying and to keep working on things,” senior Haydon Uresti explained to Sports360AZ.com. “One thing he tells us to do is be patient…it’s something you can apply to life, too.”
The life lessons don’t stop between the white lines. Nelson preaches teamwork, selflessness and most importantly good sportsmanship, as he molds Combs into winners both on and off the court.
“He told us in the very beginning,” senior Caleb Potter recalled to Sports360AZ.com. “This is your year…it’s what you do with it that’s going to count. I’m just here to guide you. He really put it in our hands to take the initiative.”
Combs is hoping Nelson’s positive, honest approach will help set a new standard with the tennis program in the southeast Valley and eventually around the state.
As the temperature and competition heats up, there’s still work to do.
After all, practice does make perfect.
Hopefully one day soon for this pack of dedicated, hard-working Coyotes.