Tennis: Exposing what’s inside

Published 11:57am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The sound was steady, even rhythmic last Saturday as tennis ball after tennis ball pounded the courts at Brookhill on Natchez, the spot where players and parents alike gathered for this year’s First Bank May Madness Jr. Tennis Tournament. The event marked the 10th year the local facility has hosted the action and my first to sit in the shade and spectate.

“This tournament is unique to our area in that it’s sanctioned by the USTA,” organizer David Misner told me during a break in his duties at the sign-in table. “When we bid for it we have to guarantee there will be a certified director (that would his wife, Jennifer) and a certified referee (that would be him) to oversee the matches.”

I also learned the sanctioned standing gives players a chance to earn points toward their ranking, which explains the tournament’s ability to attract out-of-staters like Matthew Odom, who trekked over from Baton Rouge. “It gives him an opportunity to play some different opponents,” Mom Diana said. It also doesn’t hurt that Matthew was able to contribute points to his Southern (eight-state region) ranking.

Some, though, came from right down the road, like Wesson’s Erich Fischer, who won his first match of the morning 6-0, 6-1. His mother and I chatted under the pavilion about his recent trip to state competition under Wesson Head Coach Rod Martin.

“We bought him a new racket after it was over, because we think it was pretty huge to go as a ninth-grader,” Tracy shared. She believes the fact that he slept with it that first night is a good indicator Erich liked his gift. As mom to three sons, Tracy has seen her share of football and baseball games, too. “I don’t recall any of them sleeping with a new baseball glove,” she noted for the record.

Fueling that sort of passion for tennis is the aim of Coach Misner, who not only serves as Brookhill’s tennis pro, but also just finished his sixth season overseeing the program for Brookhaven Academy’s Cougars. He describes tennis as having a unique essence in that participants compete individually.

“Those who have a love for the game have to develop self-discipline or they’ll never improve,” he commented. “If you’re going to be good, it’s your responsibility. Not everyone embraces that responsibility, but if they do, it will build character that carries over into life,” he said, pointing out one more reason tennis is good for participants: “Tennis exposes what’s inside. Do you lose your temper? Make honest calls? Have meltdowns? Pressure brings out the good and the bad.”

Saturday afforded no meltdowns that I know of, but rain showers did cause a shutdown of play by late afternoon. No worries for Misner, who rolls with the punches and considers each moment – even those making up rain delays – teachable ones.

“Here in the South kids hear all kinds of preaching. What they need most is for adults to live it,” he said, approaching the change-in-plans headache with a smile.

“Everything about coaching tennis – the fear factor, the pride issues, the temptations to cheat – gives me a platform to share truth and light,” he added.

And there are plenty in the crowd watching what he does with it, from the tournament’s boys singles winner toweling off by the steps, to the double-take twins who took doubles top honors at state last week, to my son, the one downing his second blue Powerade.

Keep it up, Coach. Keep it up.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at