Titans Boys Tennis Team Up for a Terrific Season
Apr 07, 2016 12:57PM
● By Sarah Almond
By Sarah Almond | email@example.com
Cottonwood - Holladay - There is something happening for the Olympus High School tennis program. Along with new head coach Mike Epperson, the team has also seen a massive growth in numbers; in fact, the team has exactly three-dozen players on this year’s roster.
“About 20 of the guys are relatively seasoned players, and 10 are new to the team this year,” Epperson said. “I don’t cut players. I like to develop and then reload for the following seasons. I’ve learned that successful teams don’t cut.”
Prior to coming to Olympus, Epperson coached tennis for four years at Highland High School. With the season off to a strong start, Epperson is incredibly pleased with the Olympus program.
“The season is going great. We have about 15 to 20 players that play year-round and are pretty serious about tennis,” Epperson said. “That makes it really easy to coach them and develop them. They have a desire to be at practice and participate.”
Both the varsity and JV teams swept their first match against Westlake High School on March 9.
“It was a great way to kick off the season,” Epperson said.
Though they may have just started their official season, the Titans have been building camaraderie for months. In January, Epperson took about 20 players to St. George for an impromptu tennis trip.
“We played about 10 hours of tennis and ate really crappy food and got to know each other really well,” Epperson said. “They also got to know what the expectations were going to be and understand the discipline of the team.”
Epperson also coaches youth football at Skyline High School during the fall.
“I kind of coach tennis like I do football,” he said. “There is a lot of discipline, a lot of structure and a lot of athleticism. We definitely work out quite a bit, and I am big on getting the guys physically fit.”
Along with being on time to practice and focusing strictly on tennis when they are at practice, Epperson expects his players to be constantly jogging when they are on the field.
“When they get on the court, there is no walking, just jogging and running from place to place,” Epperson said. “So at the end of the workout, they are tired and feel like they actually played and did something.”
Epperson feels like the players are responding well to his new coaching methods and are meeting all of his requirements.
“With the way we are playing, there is no reason why we won’t be a top contender at state,” Epperson said. “I expect us to compete against Skyline for the region title.”
Though claiming the region title is his No. 1 goal, Epperson hopes that he can get each varsity player to the state championships. Epperson’s record speaks for itself: Every year he coached at Highland, he was able to send every single one of his varsity players to state.
With a majority of the season remaining and the team’s ground work complete, Epperson is putting a lot of emphasis on improving the players’ concentration while on the court.
“We really need to work on our mental focus,” he said. “A lot of these players have the athletic skill set to play tennis, but in high school tennis, half of the game is mental. And if you’re not mentally strong and prepared to play, then you’re going to struggle.”
To practice fine-tuning concentration, Epperson coaches his players on how to read their opponent, reading their weaknesses and taking advantage of it immediately. He encourages his players to read their challengers during the brief practice periods before a match.
“They should be able to know exactly what their opponents’ weaknesses are, and come match time they should know how to take advantage of that weakness,” Epperson said.
Players feel like their success in the early season can be credited largely to Epperson’s high standards and thorough coaching methods.
“Along with our new coach, I think our senior leadership has helped the overall attitude of the team,” co-captain Blake Finley said. “I feel like there’s a lot more energy and excitement coming out of the players, and I think that’s going to really make this year great.”
The Titans play their last game against Cyprus High School on April 21 at 3:30 p.m.