Boys Tennis State Championship 2017. Mason Meyer looks into a sea of not only parents and teammates, but Division One tennis coaches. He secures his third state champion title in four years and the team brings home the gold. This time, however, the title is gained under new leadership.
This is seventh grade science teacher at Grandview, Lance Kush’s,first year as the head coach of both the boys and girls tennis teams. For the past two years he has served as the coach of the school’s junior-varsity team. From the time the Elkhorn South opened to the girls’ state championship last year, the tennis team was headed by Steve Bischoff, an athletic coach of 22 years. Bischoff retired after due to health issues with his knees. Kush and Bischoff had a very friendly relationship, even going to football games together after Bischoff’s retirement. Kush’s promotion to head coach was heavily supported by Bischoff.
“I think he still had the bug for it, but at the same time we talked and he was excited for what this team was able to accomplish and what I was able to accomplish too. I think it was tough for him to leave, when you care so much and have so much success yourself,” Kush said.
Kush entered the season with much luck, not having to cut a single player.
The team has the fortune of not being forced to cut any players. The tennis team is divided into three groups, Varsity, Junior-Varsity and Reserve. This allows the tennis teams to continue strengthening the abilities of veteran players, and permits beginners to have a greater understanding and aptitude towards tennis. The Varsity team consists of eight players, Junior-Varsity has nine, and Reserve has six. The top six of Varsity are the players who compete in tournaments.
“It’s not just a group of individuals. It’s easy in tennis just to focus on your singles or on your partner in doubles, but they focussed on each other, they all cared about each other, and the team and they wanted that team success,” Kush said.
Coach Kush guided Elkhorn South’s boys’ tennis teams through intense matches with class A schools this past season despite the team only being in Class B. The boys played a mixture of Class A and Class B matches, but were Class B in the State Championship. Yet, playing Class A allowed players to experience a higher level of competition, giving the boys an upper hand at the Class B championship, as well as tournaments..
The biggest challenge the boys team faced in this season was playing against Lincoln Pius.
“Going into the competition we were the slight underdogs, we had lost twice to their number one doubles team in matches. Our biggest struggle was how can we overcome them by state and we did, our number one doubles team beat their number one doubles team which ended up being big. I don’t know about struggles, but there were a lot of challenges in Class A,” Kush said.
Beyond loving the competitive nature of the sport, and the success the team encountered Kush’s first season, Kush loves having a strong involvement with the team. In practices he hits against the players in their own styles to further their abilities and give them perspective on their strengths and weaknesses. He feels, however, that he is not the one pushing the players, but that they are pushing each other.
“The team is very competitive, they pushed each other. There was no one guy who was too good, he couldn’t hit with anybody else,” Kush said.
Kush is fond of his players, and proud of the brotherhood shared between them. He feels as though they are a family, and that the connections between them strengthen the team as a whole, in a sport of individuals.
Kush values the strength and intent of the program, over the way they fare in matches.
“We want them to work hard and learn some skills, but we also just want them to have some fun sometimes. It’s not always about winning, it’s about developing a lifelong sport, making it a fun atmosphere keeps everyone involved, keeps everyone enjoying it as a high school sport,” Kush said.
Kush experienced a great first season as head coach for the boys, and is looking forward to the girls spring season, as well as seasons to come. His goals of continuing to improve the team have only just begun are there is no end in sight.
“I’m looking forward to new faces, familiar faces, looking forward to improving as a coach and with these players. I just want to continue the success of our program, it’s been great,” Kush said. “I can’t confirm anything but next year we may be class A, and ending our last year in class B would be a pretty cool way to go out.”