EJHS tennis lays foundation for success

Junior high program creates pipeline for well-trained new entrants for high school teams

Patty Hullett
Daily Light correspondent
Ennis Junior High singles tournament winners from April 17.
Ennis Junior High doubles tournament winners from April 17.

ENNIS — Varsity head coach Keith Howard has a winning high school tennis program, and he and his staff have been successfully capturing titles and turning out college bound recruits for many years — but it just doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s totally an Ennis Lions kind of thing. Better explained, it’s that special bond of loving their schools and their community that results in so many of the former EHS graduates choosing to stay and live in their hometown, often after starting careers, after completing college and/or after marriage.

That is why Coach Howard thinks that at least part of his consistently successful tennis program continues to grow and prosper. He is a native Ennisite, and so are both of his coaching assistants. Howard graduated from EHS in 1991 and has been the head coach for 25 years now. His assistant varsity coach and JV head coach is Wyatt Johnson, who was a graduate of the Class of 2000, and he has coached with Howard for 15 years. The junior high coach, Miss Heather Doslich, Class of 2006, hails from Ennis as well, and she is closing out her 5th year in the tennis program.

All three of these tennis pros reflect the same “smashmouth tennis” Ennis Lion traditions, and they all teach their students how to be successful on the courts and in the classrooms — from Day 1, and in their three different-level programs. This trio of coaches are bonded together in such consistent ways that their coaching styles mirror each other’s training styles, mentoring philosophies, and their art of mental toughness and preparedness of their teams.

As a result, the by-product of their concerted efforts equal lots of winning on the tennis courts. And these kids basically train year round. In fact, as soon as school lets out in a couple of weeks, their summer tennis programs will be starting up. That includes everything from some “free tennis” lessons for youngsters just starting out in the game of tennis, to week-long tennis day camps, to summer clinics, to tune-up tournaments, etc. So, you might say that Ennis’ tennis mantra might be “no rest for the weary” — if you truly want to be a champion on one of Coach Howard’s teams.

These three excellent coaches work their students very hard all year long, but they also build-in time for some much-needed entertainment. They come up with fun drills, they also often do some dance routines (like line-dancing, etc.) to improve their footwork, the students are encouraged to always be ready for “challenge matches” against other team players, and more. These athletes play hard, but they have also know how to have fun and enjoy learning positive teamwork together.

The focus of this particular story is to highlight the triumph of the junior high tennis program this season. As mentioned previously, Coach Doslich handles the junior high tennis players.

Coach Doslich says, “Our final overall count for our spring season was 6-2. Our toughest competitive school that we lost to was Waco Midway. We also had a couple of matches get rained out. We don't actually have a ‘district tournament’ for junior high. In fact, not all schools are lucky enough to have a junior high program, and we are fortunate enough to have high enough numbers for two periods of tennis classes for Ennis Junior High.”

She continues, “Ennis hosted a Junior High tournament on Saturday, April 17, and it was a huge success. Most of our players do not have a ton of exposure to tennis outside of Ennis, so this was a great opportunity to get match experience with other same-level students from Wills Point, Duncanville, Corsicana, and Midlothian.“

Coach Doslich shares, “Our overall tennis program for the junior high for 7th grade is 30 and 8th grade total is 35. I am very proud of these hard-working tennis players that dedicate themselves to our junior high school program. In the next year or two, they will be well-prepared and ready to capably jump into the high school varsity or junior varsity teams, if they so choose to remain in the sport of tennis.”