Husky tennis season ends on positive note
Jun 02, 2017 11:23AM ● Published by Travis Barton
No. 1 singles player returns a serve during the region 6 tournament at Murray High. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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Robert James came to Hillcrest High School four years ago to teach Spanish. He ended up teaching a game with a special language of its own: tennis.
“I grew up playing tennis, I love it,” James said.
On a team that has ethnic groups from far away places including Italy, India and Mexico, James has appreciated that the game of tennis has no cultural boundaries.
“We have a unique experience at Hillcrest. We get a hodgepodge of a lot of kids who come from all sorts of backgrounds. It’s fun,” said James, who played tennis into his late ‘20s and coached in California for four years.
One of those players is Joseph Montanari, a senior exchange student from Italy. He decided to play when a friend invited him.
“I’ve never played tennis so I think it’s just really fun, so I said ‘yeah, let’s do it,’” Montanari said.
Despite the lack of tennis experience, James said he has loved having Montanari on the team.
“Joseph has been the heart and soul of our team and has done a great job,” James said.
Without any year-round tennis players, the Huskies have needed to find a different focus for infusing passion into the game. James encourages them to keep playing the lifelong sport even after they leave high school.
“It’s what I like to instill in them, the love for the game, and not forget about it,” James said.
He added tennis provides good balance in one’s life since “you can only study chemistry for so many hours in a day, then you gotta get out there and do some physical stuff.”
James focuses on the positive side of things joking with his players.
“He’s a pretty funny guy,” Montanari said of his coach. “He tries talking in Italian but using Spanish.”
It’s a pressure-free atmosphere, James said, stressing enjoyment for tennis over all else.
“At Hillcrest there’s no pressure. I just come out here and be a presence as a coach to facilitate the tennis, and I’m fortunate to have a background with it so I know the nuances,” James said.
With Hillcrest moving into a different region next year that doesn’t include perennial powers Skyline and Olympus, the Huskies could be included for the seeding at the state tournament.