Without a strong leadership position, building a team is a daunting task. And yet, a strong team is crucial to a successful season.
The soft tennis team’s previ- ous coach, Kristie Yamamoto,has stepped down after 21 years of coaching. Yamamoto accepted an IB coordinator position this year, and is guiding teachers in applying MYP principles and establishing grading scales for their subject area, while still teaching math part-time. As a result, the team has been confronted by many challenges and the struggle to close the gaps has affected the players.
The team has had to grapple with the pressure of thesituation, as they are learningto deal with issues without losing their composure and perspective. Yamamoto was known for her strict disciplinary style, quickly gaining respect among players.
Without her there to establish structure during practices, new members adopted a more casual attitude. “[Some play-ers] get lazy and do whatever. I can help them but I don’t have the authority like a coach would,” said senior Felix Krendl. “I’m frustrated at the lack of motivation of some of the players.” A major problem was the poor communication amongst players, which resulted in uncertainty amongst members about practice times. Also, attendance for some was often sporadic, and at times the ones who did show up treated practice casual-ly rather than focusing and trying to improve,” said Krendl.
Amanda Nitta, a junior on the girls team, agreed with Krendl. “[Returning players] know that a match is not a place to fool around, but the others were not disciplined [enough] to know that. Matches were already rough due to a few being rescheduled in the beginning of the season.”
However, the team didn’t go down without a fight. Students and parents voiced their concern about not having a team, and eventually, athletic director Nelson Chee stepped in to supervise the team. “It’s definitely a group effort,” said Chee. “I played tennis when I was younger, and understand basic techniques, skills, and rules, so I am able to help new players with beginning techniques, and provide them with a foundation and skill set they can use to compete.”
While Chee is able to assist with basic skills, he acknowledges that beyond that level, there isn’t much he can do for players. “It’s not my forte,” he said, adding that “returning players already have their own style and that they’re at such a high level, it’s hard to findthings to adjust.”
Nitta said players on the team appreciate Chee’s commitment, as his initiative enabled the players to participate in the matches, and likewise, Chee is grateful that the team aided him. “I think the team understood the situation; they kept a good attitude and gave a lot of effort,” said Chee.
Fortunately, halfway through the season, Chee found a new coach, Norrin Lau. Lau had previously coached at Roosevelt and with over 20 years of experience, beginning with being a Kalani tennis alumnus, he comes with lots of expertise. “Mr. Lau has been a vital part to this season’s survival, from simple things like introducing new drills, to bringing an engaging new style of coaching,” said Nitta. “He wants to be there for the team, and is very encouraging and open. He keeps members from being discouraged.” Since the short season is almost over, Lau will be joining Kaiser as the official coach next year.
Even in this situation, the team strives to live up to the accomplishments made by last year’s team. The boys’ doubles team took first overall in the OIA last year, and left a strong legacy among the players who continued playing on the team. So far this season, Felix Krendl and Connor Tsang of the boys’ team won first place in OIA east competition.
The future for the team is bright, and players remain optimistic. Nitta believes that “with work, the whole team can work their wayup”. Returning players are still motivated to stay on top. A promising new coach will take on the role next season, and the players are grateful for Chee’s support. “We practice three to four times a week,” he said. “We participate in matches like normal. We’re still functioning. I see a team.”
Taylor Dunaway / Staff Writer | Landon Murai / Staff Writer
Image Courtesy of Ethan Mamiya