March 16, 2013 in Washington Voices

Having a ball

New EV coach enjoys game at different level
Steve Christilaw wurdsmith2002@msn.com
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Callie Hanson, a senior at East Valley High School, practices Wednesday at the school for the spring tennis season.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Peggy Gurule has a passion for tennis and she wants to share it with others.

A former assistant tennis coach at Gonzaga University, Gurule begins her first year as girls tennis coach at East Valley High School with a great deal of enthusiasm.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “Yes, I’m working at the other end of the spectrum – at Gonzaga I was working with players who were on scholarship and where everything was life and death; here I’m working with some kids who are just learning how to hold a racquet properly as well as some kids who have been playing the game for quite a while.”

Gurule takes over a popular program with a strong turnout rate. She welcomed 25 players on the first day of practice, including 13 from last year’s varsity.

“No cuts – we’re not cutting anyone and everyone who turns out will see some playing time,” she said. “I look at it this way: Tennis isn’t just a sport you play in high school or college, it’s a game you play for a lifetime.”

Gurule played the game in high school, then walked away from it for a decade before picking up her racquet again and embracing tennis with a deep passion.

“That’s what it’s all about: passion,” she said. “Every person needs something in their life that they feel passionate about. That’s what makes life interesting. For me, it’s tennis.

“At the club where I play, there are 85-year-old couples who are out there playing twice a week. That’s what I want for myself and maybe some of these young girls will want to embrace the game that way.”

With 25 players, with differing levels of tennis experience, Gurule enlisted teammates to offer a little peer coaching.

“They’ve been great about helping out with their peers,” she said. “It does help our experienced players. Any time you teach and you know what your fundamental skills are, it helps reinforce what you already know.”

Gurule and the Knights have enjoyed the best spring practice weather in recent memory – and both have made good use of it all – starting from scratch with her varsity.

“Since I’m not familiar with where everyone was last year, we broke things down and we played challenge matches,” she said. “For doubles, we’re still experimenting with different combinations of players. I’ll probably be switching things up from match to match for a while.”

Singles tennis at the high school level tends to be dominated by players with a wealth of experience at the club level.

But doubles can be a different story. It’s not uncommon to see successful duos who primarily play high school tennis.

“It’s about finding chemistry,” Gurule said. “It’s about finding two players who fit together and can play the game together. We’re going to work on finding those things. We’re stressing the traits that make for successful doubles teams: communication and support. We want to find the right fit for our team and then we’ll start working on strategy.”

The Great Northern League was dominated by Pullman a year ago and the Greyhounds sent a pair of singles players into the state tournament. But the Greyhounds not only lost seven of 10 varsity players to graduation, they also lost their coach.

The Knights are taking things one match at a time, Gurule said.

“We have a jamboree and we have our first of the year against Rogers,” she said Thursday. “We’ll take a look at where we are and how we compete and then go on from there.”

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