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The City Journals

Draper tennis players coaching Juan Diego’s boys team

May 07, 2018 03:22PM ● By Catherine Garrett

New Juan Diego Catholic High boys tennis coach Marisa Smith (on right) stands with her assistant coach Ellyn Bennet. The Draper residents have been playing in tennis leagues the past few years and will now be on this “great adventure,” according to Smith, together. (Photo provided by Marisa Smith)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Two Draper residents, who play in local tennis leagues, are teaming up to coach the boys tennis team following the retirement of long-time coach Arthur Miyazaki. Marisa Smith is the new head coach and Ellyn Bennet is her assistant. 

Smith heard about Miyazaki retiring and tried to help fill the position with contacts she knew, but she was unsuccessful. “The thought of the Juan Diego tennis program ending was eating at me,” she said. “One night I was voicing my frustration to my husband and he said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ My first reaction was to laugh.” A week later, after continued encouragement from her husband and children — who have been attending school at the Skaggs Catholic Center since they were in the Guardian Angel Daycare — Smith said she decided she couldn’t come up with any reasons to not pursue the job.

“I feel so grateful and appreciative towards the wonderful coaches my kids have had in their lives,” she said. “That has been a great motivator and inspiration for me to give something back to the school.” 

“Coach Marisa Smith brings enthusiasm, organization and passion to our boys tennis program,” Juan Diego Athletic Director Chris Long said. “She is deeply involved in the Juan Diego and Saint John the Baptist community. She has encouraged non-traditional tennis athletes to give tennis a try, so in this way she is growing the program. We’re delighted to have her.”

Smith talked with Bennet — her tennis teammate for the past three years — about going on a “great adventure” with her to coach at Juan Diego.

“I thought this was the perfect opportunity to be more involved in my community,” Bennet said. “I am excited to work with young people and to share love of a game that I hope they will enjoy throughout their lives.”

Smith has been playing tennis since she was 6 years old and played on varsity team for a California high school for four years before moving on to play at Sonoma State University in northern California for a year. A knee surgery and then marriage and motherhood sidelined her career a bit until three years ago when she “decided to take my racquet out of retirement” and joined a Draper city tennis class. “I met a group of ladies who shared my renewed love for the game,” she said. “Now, we all play as a team in the USTA Intermountain Adult League.” 

She is now on a court nearly every day and has received instruction from “some of the best coaches Utah has to offer.”

“I have learned just about all there is to know about tennis and the thought of passing that along to these high school players is so exciting to me,” she said.

Bennet said she started playing tennis in high school and was on the boys team, until Title IX went into effect and then she was able to be the captain for the first girls tennis team at her high school during her senior year. She has stayed in the sport for the love of the game and the social aspect of it as well. Now, Bennet looks forward to a new opportunity in tennis: first-time coach.

“Tennis is always challenging you on many levels,” she said. “Like most sports, there are the elements of sportsmanship, competition, striving for individual improvement as well as working together as a team. But, unlike some sports, with tennis — regardless of age — you can continue to play and compete ‘competitively’ at your skill level.”

Smith said the coaching duo hopes to continue Juan Diego’s standards of excellence on and off the court. “As coaches, we try to achieve success by balancing teams and individual goals and by focusing on performance rather than outcome objectives,” she said, noting that team chemistry is “crucial” to this individual sport. They will also emphasize enjoying a sport they can love and respect for years to come, well beyond their high school years.