Team format works best for prep tennis
Rich Taylor's proposal would bring a welcome change to the state tennis landscape
The chance to crown a true team champion is in the works with a revamped tennis plan to be presented to the Oregon Schools Activities Association when it enters its next restructuring cycle for the 2010-11 athletic season.
The proposal, started by Forest Grove boys coach Rich Taylor, has built a groundswell of support from coaches around the state. The team tennis plan would call for each league champion to send their full team to state, while still leaving room for individual qualifiers.
The best reason for adopting this format is that it rewards an entire team for their efforts. Every player is able to score points toward his team's title quest.
The weighted system would award more team points for wins in the top flight, while No. 4 players would score the least points. But at least those players would be making some impact on the team chase. And coaches would be rewarded for building a complete team, rather than being the benefactor of a few talented club phenoms making a run through the bracket.
'A lot of the motivation is to allow everyone on the team to contribute to the success,' Barlow boys coach Andrew Pate said.
It would also eliminate the early-round mismatches where a top-seeded player takes on a league's fourth-place qualifier. Instead, all of the No. 1 players would battle in their own bracket, while the No. 2 players would meet in a separate pool.
The current system opens the door for teams to contend for a team trophy simply by having one or two strong players.
The biggest example of this came in 2003 when Emily Kirchem of Reynolds won the state singles title, piling up enough points for the Raiders to claim the fourth-place trophy at state.
Reynolds was winless during the league season that year.
'For a team to finish nowhere near the top of their league, then come away with a trophy at state. A lot of coaches look at that and see that it doesn't make sense,' Pate said.
In the meantime, Taylor is doing his best to create an unofficial regular-season team champion by holding various regional tournaments throughout the state.
The focus of high school sports should be on the team rather than individuals. I've been to many state tournaments where players finish their match, pack their bag and leave the facility only to return when it's their turn to play once again.
Last weekend, players were crowded around the Portland Tennis Center courts to cheer their teammates, knowing that key points were at stake in every battle. The focus was not so much 'Me, me, me' but 'We, we, we.'