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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Finally healthy, East Valley’s Tiffany Phout has sights set on state tennis return

UPDATED: Wed., May 11, 2022

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Chronic pain would shoot up Tiffany Phout’s legs daily, as the three long bones in her right leg – and tibia and fibula in her left – required realignment and the addition of metal plates to alleviate the pain.

The only way to do this was to trim her right femur, both tibias and fibulas, before making those adjustments.

While chronic pain can affect anyone, that sort of pain for a 10-year-old is particularly alarming and disconcerting.

Phout struggled to walk, and stairs were a challenge that required her mom’s assistance.

For two years, Phout, her parents and her doctor decided on physical therapy to remedy the pain, but Phout was slowly accepting that surgery was the likely move.

With the decision to go under the knife made, she had three surgeries to align the bones with her knees. All three surgeries were considered decently significant, requiring multinight stays at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.

Her brother also had to undergo a similar surgery during the same time, putting a bit of pressure on the Phout family as their mom stayed home from work to take care of the two siblings.

“Because my brother and I were both getting surgeries, she decided to not work so she could stay home and take care of both of us, which was really nice,” Phout said.

Another two years of recovery in and out of Shriner’s in 2020 and 2021, and Phout has begun to feel closer to 100% in 2022.

A tennis standout at East Valley, Phout has been a protégé since age 4, training under her dad’s guidance. Even with her smaller stature, she was a force on the court, surprising her opponents with her power. As she worked through her rehab, questioning if she would find a racket in her hand again, there was one person for whom she wanted to return to the court.

“I think my dad was the main reason I continued tennis, just because he sacrificed so much to provide the opportunity,” she said.

But between 2015 and 2019, the lingering pain sapped Phout of her signature power and fleet mobility to which she and her opponents were accustomed.

She had to forfeit multiple matches her freshman season in 2019, but still earned a trip to State 2A in 2019, advancing to the second round before falling to Faith Grisham of Columbia River – the eventual state champion.

Then, the pandemic wiped out her chances at state tournament appearances in 2020 and 2021.

As a senior this year, Phout has chased the goal of reaching those heights again.

That challenge comes with a caveat for her.

With improved competition, a lack of personal fine-tuning, and top-end training still alluding her, that pinnacle will be a difficult achievement.

But she pushes forward.

First-year head coach Tom Griner – who coached under former East Valley coach Japez Harlan for six years – has been thankful to have a player like Phout at the tip of his tennis spear.

“It was just like a privilege, more than anything to have a player like that,” he said. “I can just put anybody that I want to play against her and I know that it’s going to just improve our team. And it’s really been just a privilege, more than anything. Really.”

Phout has gained the respect and admiration of Greater Spokane League opponents during her time as a Knight.

“Everybody always talks about her being so nice,” Griner said. “And I just had the Clarkston coach come up to her and say how nice she was. And no matter how badly she beats her opponent, they always come out just saying she’s so nice.”

Phout has two losses on the season, both to Pullman, but she is still working toward a second state appearance, even if she concedes the road has added a few more curves and the competition has stiffened.

But she will continue the attempt to return to the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle for the first time since her freshman season.

While her form is still rounding into shape, she has a lot of skill and experience to carry her forward.

“She has very good technique. Her dad taught her good technique,” Griner said. “She’s solid on both sides, her forehand and backhand are so good. She’s been training really hard for the last year to just make the most out of her senior year that she could, and it’s been just fantastic.”

After graduation in June, Phout is attending Washington State this fall. While her tennis career trajectory has been altered, she still is lined up to play club tennis for the Cougars just like her older brother – he even has given her solid reviews of the Cougar program.

The club route also happens to be the same path Griner took in college.

“Club is a very good (option) if you want to go academically and not just for tennis,” Griner said. “You see some very, very good athletes; very, very good players in tennis club that could easily play for a DII school, but they chose to fulfill their academic needs instead of following their tennis futures.”

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