Durand boys tennis coach Bryan Hittle is used to having to juggle schedules.
There’s his own team’s schedule, and those of athletes who are in other activities.
That includes soccer player Adam Pruett — who plays either No. 1 or 2 singles — softball player Bailee Huff at No. 3 singles, and Olivia Ayers and Shane Nichols of the Durand High School band.
Hittle welcomes all comers. It’s the difference between having and not having a team.
“We’re always fighting the numbers,” Hittle said. “We’re always fighting that. We have a total of nine players, but that’s good. They aren’t playing video games.”
Hittle’s team is young, with two freshmen and a sophomore in key spots going up against foes with much more experience.”
That was most evident in a quad at Owosso, where the Railroaders lost to Flint Kearsley and Ortonville Brandon of the Flint Metro League by sizable margins.
“It was a rough start, but it was expected,” Hittle said. “We’re looking, this year, to get better for next year. We’re really raw and new to the sport.”
Another disadvantage, he said, is Durand does not have youth tennis program.
“We start in the ninth grade, where some of schools we play have junior high programs,” Hittle said.
The practice schedule is a bit of a challenge as well.
“We start practice a couple of hours after school,” Hittle said. “The band practices after tennis. If it’s raining, we try to go to the weight room. We don’t have any (access) to the gym because this is volleyball season at the high school and middle school. We go to the weight room if it’s raining but we can’t do a cardio workout. We work on flexing and strength on rain days.”
But, Hittle says, the team soldiers on.
“It’s better to be involved in a sport and stay active than sit on the couch and play video games,” he said. “What they do now, in high school, is where they set their habits for a lifetime.”
So, he makes the most of the opportunity that lies ahead.
“We’re very very young and inexperienced,” he said. “Our goal is to have fun and get better as athletes.”
And, Hittle hopes, to keep this year’s players interested in both the sport and their development and reap the benefits down the road.
A brief look at the other area tennis teams:
Coach: Bill Lawson
Key returners: Caleb Stahr (No. 1 singles), Jack Belmer (No. 2 singles), Braden Fruchey-Trent Moore (No. 1 doubles).
Outlook: Veteran coach Lawson leads his team into the Flint Metro League for the first time in 2019. The Cavaliers will compete in the Stars Division, and its rivalry with Owosso will had added significance since it will be a conference match this season.
Coach: Ed Tyler
Last year: 2-9-2 overall, 1-3 MMAC
Key returners: Eian Bushard (No. 1 singles), Mason Spiess (No. 2 singles), Skyler Brown and Caleb Hall (No. 1 doubles).
Key newcomers: Sophomore Madison Manchester, freshman Justice Moore.
Outlook: The Marauders bring in an experienced group to improve on last year’s 2-9-2 mark. The team has five seniors and one junior.
Coach: Mike Raffaelli
Last year: 7-7 overall, 2-4 Flint Metro League; finished fifth in the league tournament.
Key returners: Wyatt Leland (No. 1 singles), Wes Lavigne (No. 2 singles), Jay Tuttle-Kody Reese (No. 1 doubles), Addie Kregger-Anna Salisbury (No. 2 doubles).
Outlook: Raffaelli begins his 25th season coaching the Trojans, who begin play in the Stars Division of the Flint Metro League. The split should help the Trojans as they won’t face FML powers like Fenton and Holly until a crossover on Oct. 18.