Depth creates daily competition for BSHS tennis squad
At any given practice day for the Bonner Springs tennis team, there are a couple of things that will catch your eye.
Well, 25 things.
That’s how many boys are on the Braves’ 2010 roster. The increased interest in the sport forced coach Bill Scott to set up two ranking ladders, 1-12 and 13-25. This year Scott has had to hold playoffs in practice to shave the roster down to workable size for each tournament.
“In the first meeting they started coming in the classroom, and I mean they just kept on coming,” Scott said. “There were over 35 kids. We tried it that way for a few days, but it was just too many. We had to make cuts.”
After shaving the roster to a somewhat workable size, another problem developed for the 31st-year coach. He saw that the guys in the middle of the ladder system were all pretty equal in ability. So, he devised a way to fill out the brackets for each tournament, scheduling challenges before every tournament — a sort of tournament to qualify for a tournament.
“I’m mainly doing it this way because I have some guys that think they have the spot in the sack because they were here last year,” Scott said. “I want to show them that they have to practice hard and be intense.”
Every night the Braves have four or five challenges, something that they have never had before. Scott said such competition shows there is not much distance between teammates.
“Our ladder has constantly changed and is always in flux,” Scott added.
Does this approach make his job any easier?
“Well, I think there will be less question from the guys and where they are playing,” he said. “It shows that I’m not (playing) favorites. People are earning the right to be there, so I guess that part is a little easier. If you coach 31 years you had better know you have to learn to deal with whatever comes up.”
BJ Watson, a talented sophomore, has benefited from the competition structure. Tuesday afternoon in the singles portion of the Bonner Springs Invitational, Watson played in his first varsity match because of how well he performed in the practice challenges.
While Watson lost, he was glad to get the chance to compete.
“I was excited and had a lot of fun, but I learned how competitive (varsity) can be,” Watson said. “I had to step up and change my approach and move around a lot. Once I get some more experience I can be more competitive. (I have to) practice harder every day.”
In junior varsity play, Watson said he could stand in one spot and did not have to use his quickness as much.
As for his thoughts on having to play his way into tournament, he said he likes it.
“It’s more fun,” he said. “I’m a very competitive person so I don’t want to just take a spot that has been handed to me; I’d rather fight for it,” he said.
Freshman Aaron Lewis has benefited from the increased competition.
“It is more competitive and more fun in practice, especially since we know each other so well,” Lewis said. “I know I have to beat him and him if I want to play in the tournament. There are no hard feelings, at least on my side. It is fun because you are playing against someone you actually know.”
That kind of familiarity breeds difficult matches in practice. Lewis, for instance, said he struggles with following through on his backhand stroke and his teammates attempt to exploit that weakness. However, he is familiar with their shortcomings too.
“It makes you work that much harder to overcome your shortcomings,” Lewis said.
The BSHS Invitational continues at 3:15 p.m. today with doubles competition.