Planning for the future is important in any walk of life. Waxahachie head tennis coach Perry Nutt has his sights set on the future success of the tennis program at Waxahachie.
Like most sports the earlier one can begin learning the game the better he or she will become.
With that thought in mind, Nutt and Waxahachie officials are looking to the junior high as a feeding ground for tennis instruction.
“In Waxahachie, little league softball, baseball, football and soccer serve as huge assets to our high school programs. Since tennis doesn’t have a league to build love for the game, our junior high tennis class helps to serve that purpose,” Nutt said.
With more than 20 kids in the junior high program, the newly formed eighth-grade class supplements an after school program that has been in place for junior high students for two and a half years. Nutt said he thinks that once Waxahachie can offer a seventh-grade tennis class as well, the number of tennis students will grow tremendously.
“The junior high tennis program is not new,” Waxahachie athletic director David Ream said. “It is an enhancement of the program we already have in place. We are utilizing our facilities and staff to provide our feeder program with the experience to help make our high school program more competitive. We’ve targeted students who were already in the tennis program but were not involved in other athletic or band programs. This enhancement comes at no additional cost to the district. This is one of the commitments we made to Coach Nutt when he took over the program. Having recently completed renovations to the tennis complex, this provides another opportunity for our student-athletes as they strive to be successful both on and off the court.”
The big difference is now Waxahachie can provide the eighth-graders with a tennis class that they attend every day and get a grade for. The students attend the class every weekday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. at the high school tennis courts. Seventh-grade students practice twice a week, Monday and Tuesday, from 4-5:30 p.m. on the newly resurfaced courts.
Last week the junior high teams had the opportunity to put their practice to work as they competed against Red Oak.
Nutt said the players performed well and he expects them to play against other junior high programs such as Ennis, Midlothian, Duncanville and Corsicana in the near future.
Another way Nutt has helped introduce tennis to more students at WISD is through a special in-service program that was held in January.
The United States Tennis Association representative hosted a free in-service for every PE teacher in the district in January. For $35 a campus, they gave teachers a tennis curriculum so they can add tennis to their PE class. The USTA also gave the schools equipment (40 racquets and foam balls) for the teachers to use in the unit.
The curriculum is eight-weeks long, but can be modified to fit any time frame. It teaches the kids racquet control, basic strokes and tennis games.
“I think this program could be a huge asset to our program in the future,” Nutt said. “By exposing every child in the district to tennis at a young age, we are giving them the opportunity to decide if they like it. Hopefully many will enjoy the game and decide to pursue it as they get into middle school and high school.”
As the USTA program helps teach youth the game of tennis and the junior high program builds basic fundamental techniques the tennis players at Waxahachie will be one-step ahead once they reach high school.
“I hope that it will help players transition better into high school tennis and allow them to learn the basic fundamentals of the game. Most of the schools in our district start players out in sixth-grade and have over 75 players on their junior high rosters. By starting them out early, they increase their exposure and that makes their teams successful over time.”
Nutt understands that new programs take time to build successfully. At 25 years old he plans to stay in Waxahachie possibly for the rest of his life.
“When I applied for the job, I told myself that this is something I could do for the rest of my life. I didn’t take this job as a ‘stepping stone’ to a bigger role. My whole family is from this area, I’m a 25-year-old head coach of a building program, and I love my players.”
While Nutt’s goal for the junior high is to teach basic fundamentals he hopes that by exposing students to tennis at an early age they will fall in love with the game like he did.
“Whether it’s the seventh-graders who come to practice just because they love it, or the eighth-graders who wake up early to play, most of them exceed my expectations on a regular basis,” Nutt said. “I really want to thank athletic director David Ream and the principal at the Howard Eight Grade Center, Robert Woodhouse, for working together to get this class created for our players. It will take a few years to get fully established, but this junior high program will be a huge stepping-stone in the building of our tennis program. ”