Nash reflects on latest title, program future
This week’s Q & A is with Oxford tennis coach Louis Nash, who helped lead the Chargers to a seventh straight title nine days ago.
John Davis: Now that it’s been a few days since you won the title, what are your thoughts on what this team achieved?
Louis Nash: I thought eventually, this group would be pretty good. And they ended up being good. We beat the team that won the 4A (title), we beat the team that won the 3A, we beat two of the best 6A schools. We didn’t have a chance to play Ocean Springs (the 6A champion this year). Sometimes we find them in a tournament in Meridian. Sometimes we meet somewhere else, we just didn’t have a chance to do that. I would have loved to play Ocean Springs. With the right matchup, with this team, we can pretty much beat a lot of them. I thought going to Florida, and playing in that college format and dividing the boys and girls and playing that level of team, and getting beat up on and having to really work to stay and fight in a match when things weren’t going well, I really thought that set us up well.
Davis: Was the trip to Florida then the point where you got a much better idea of what this team could do the last month or so of this season?
Nash: I thought during that time, and after that trip, we had a little more grit than I had predicted we would. We showed a lot down there in Florida. I was really impressed with the way all the kids fought when they played. We have played a lot of matches against some very good teams and people and it was really important to play hard and stay in those matches. We showed a lot of guts hanging in a bunch of those matches and winning our fair share. Even in the ones we lost, we looked good doing it. We played 72 matches in two days and in none of those did we go without a fight.”
Davis: How do you evaluate every year? When you sit down when you get done with your individual state tournament, how do you start to look at a year?
Nash: Ashley (Freeman) and I will sit down and probably go through each kid, one by one, and make some notations on things we like, things we didn’t like, things that need to be improved upon. We’ll set a summer schedule as to when we’re going to work with these boys and girls. We’ll get out on that new court in June. Hopefully we will. If not, we’ll get out on the four right here and then we’ll get started.”
Davis: What are those new courts at John Leslie going to do for you? Is it going to make an already popular sport in this town that much more popular?
Nash: We’re pretty much maxed out on kids. I mean we got kids ..
Davis: How many kids did you end up with this year?
Nash: I think we ended up with 50, maybe 51. I’m talking Ashley’s classes of young kids are maxed out. Debbie (Swindoll) is maxed out in her classes. The OPC sessions are maxed out. There is a waiting list, we got people doing private lessons and they’re maxed out. What the new courts will do will give more people more of an opportunity of a place to play. For instance, you have two kids that come to a court, ready to play, the worst thing that could happen to them is there be no court available to them to play on. You may never get them back to play. What those new courts will do, probably 99 percent of the time, there will be some place for those kids to play. And adults also. You have adults that are going out for the first time and don’t know if they’ll stick with the sport or not. If they don’t have a place to play, they may just ride on by and keep going. If they got a place to play, they may stick with it. It just makes it a lot better environment as far as being open to the public, free of charge. You can go out and play tennis and it cost you a racquet, a pair of tennis shoes and a couple of balls. You can go to work and there’s not many sports you can do that in.”
Davis: What do you like most about this program, coaching these kids, for you to keep coming back? I know that the success is there, but it’s got to be more than just winning.
Nash: Day-to-day interaction is probably the key. Seeing the players everyday, whether it’s a time to joke, or to be a little upset, or the time to inspire, or time to be sad, whatever it takes that particular day. It’s not just a tennis thing. The day-to-day entertainment such as it is, whether it be a bus trip somewhere or a certain group of kids in a lineup and you get to watch them play and grow, when things aren’t going well, you get to see if the children can handle that. When you teach a certain strategy and you see that it helps a certain kid on the court, that’s fun. The winning is the result of all your competitive tendencies. Everything you do in practice and everything you preach to the kids, a few of them will tell you I can get up and preach, for a long time, on certain topics. The end result of that is the winning part. It’s like I’ve told people for a lot of years, winning has a very minimal amount to do with the coach, per se. It’s more about how the coach aligns certain talent and how the program is developed and they being taught in the beginning. I can take them and do my thing which is probably more from a strategic, lineup or doubles positioning.
Davis: And you know which matchups to make. You said that last week you don’t mix the wrong personalties together, right?
Nash: You do it for such a long period of time that you try and develop a knack for which doubles team works well or you develop a knack for which kid might be your best singles player that day. Sometimes you just get lucky, depending on who the other team puts in their particular matchup. The joy for our team and the faces for all the winning is the bottom of our lineup is way better than the bottom of the lineup on other teams. We’re good at the top, but comparatively, we’re really good at the bottom.
Davis: What was the reaction of the school and community about the latest win?
Nash: We had a lot of people over the weekend read about it, saw it wherever the pictures were. They have nice things to say. From my point of view, sure it’s good. I think, from what I gather, and what you hope is, they say those things to the kids that are playing. Kids that age just eat up positive comments. I think that makes them feel good about what they’re doing on top of what they’ve already done. As Quinn (Elliott) intelligently said it best, I promise you they would have all had a comment if we would have lost. And that being said, that may happen one day. But that’s not what we prepare to happen. As Ashley said, she taught all day Saturday, we’ve got all kind of kids that can play that are coming up. Not just kids that are out there, but kids that can play. That’s remarkable. As I told her, I’m not sure what these other towns and schools are going to do, but that falls under the category of that’s not our problem. If they want to keep up, they can keep up. Tupelo certainly has the facility to keep up. Now that they’ve added on, New Albany has the facility to keep up. Several places have the facilities to keep up. For so long, we’ve been way behind in facilities, but we’ve been way ahead as far as producing numbers of tennis players. Now the facilities have equaled the numbers of people playing tennis. You wouldn’t believe the number of people, students at Ole Miss, adults, that can really play. I’m not just talking your occasional player, I’m talking people that played in college, people who have been successful at a high level that are living in Oxford. There are just so many players and the high school team is just a part of it all. I think the tennis community is excited when any of the tennis groups do well. We just seem to get a little publicity than some. We appreciate it, we love it and we’ll take it.”