Tahoe kids having love affair with tennis | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe kids having love affair with tennis

In the afternoon heat, tennis balls can be seen flying all over the South Tahoe High School tennis courts.

Players of all ages are busy whacking the green felt balls under the watchful eye and tutelage of tennis coach Pat Fagen.

Fagen started the Tahoe Tennis Academy three years ago in hopes to boost South Tahoe High’s tennis program. Fagen became head coach after Mike Taylor resigned five years ago.

“His last team won the zone championships,” Fagen said. “It was the first team to win the championship that wasn’t from Reno. But, it was full of seniors, so I’ve been rebuilding since then.”

Three years ago, Fagen’s team posted a 2-12 record. That’s when he decided he needed to start his academy.

It’s paid off.

Last year, South Tahoe went 9-3 and returns seven seniors this fall. He believes that his academy has had a lot to do with the turnaround.

The first year of his program featured a free tennis league for kids ages 7 to 10. There also was a travel team that went undefeated and featured many future members of the South Tahoe High team.

Now, there are more than 90 members in the academy and Fagen is seeing the difference in the caliber of play from his players.

“We’ve been winning about 75 percent of the tournaments we enter,” Fagen said. “And it will only get better.”

Some of Wednesday’s participants also see the strides Fagen has made with them. Ten-year-old Jimmy Roberts and 15-year-old Parker Alexander appreciate all the work and effort coach Fagen has put into the academy.

“It’s really great,” Alexander said. “We learn a lot about techniques and grips and strategy.”

Alexander has entered four tournaments this summer and he has won all four, while Roberts has entered two and made to the finals both times.

“Tennis is my favorite sport,” said Roberts, who has been with Fagen for four years. “Coach Fagen really helps me become a better player.”

Fagen’s program is not only limited to South Tahoe tennis players. There are players from Zephyr Cove and other participants from California.

“We break it up by levels. There’s a 10-year-old boy playing with 13-year-old boys,” Fagen said. “I have a group of junior high kids that can compete at the high school level right now.”

One of the obstacles that Fagen had to overcome with his academy was the aging tennis facilities at the high school. Last summer, Fagen and a group of parents put in more than 400 hours of work to help resurface the courts.

“The school district was very helpful with us,” Fagen said. “Steve Morales, Jack Stafford and Frank Kovac all played a big part with the resurfacing.”

With the new courts and an established academy, Fagen and his kids have their eyes set on the future.

“Our main goal now is to continue to grow and get better,” Fagen said. “We have a good base of younger players to build from. We expect to be strong.”

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