MACOMB – It’s been a strong start to the season for the Macomb girls tennis program and Thursday night was another example of what the Bombers are doing well this year.
Macomb topped United Township 3-2 to improve to 4-1 this season with plenty of players doing their part.
“We’ve got a pretty good core coming back and they’re running the team climate and the team culture and that’s been a real positive place here going on for 10-plus years with how the girls get along and the chemistry of the team which is such an important factor,” Macomb coach Ryan Wilson said. “When you have those seniors and juniors who can hold the team together, you add in new kids and young kids and they’re involved in the mix right away.”
With volleyball, dance and cheerleading seasons moved or outright canceled this fall, Macomb has had an influx of athletes join the tennis program, contributing to the strong start.
“It’s been different, but when you look at the positives, the good news is we’ve had players come out for tennis who usually play volleyball or cheerlead or dance so all the sports that are cancelled, a lot of those girls are coming out and joining the team,” Wilson said. “The positive is, the experience of a lot of new players and getting some kids who have never played tennis before and opening that new experience for them.
“I look at that, if you want to look at a good side of this, is we’re exposing a whole new group of kids to tennis, which for a coach is awesome. We love that, we love getting them started in a new sport.”
And whenever you get athletes involved in a new sport, sometimes the best thing you can do is give them a few instructions and let their athleticism and instincts take over.
“The transformation has been really fast and really smooth, you take them from volleyball for example to tennis it’s a real easy step for a coach,” Wilson said. “Also, when you see these kids win early in the season, which they have been, that really feeds their interest.
“For new kids in a new sport, winning feeds that desire to want to be better and learn more.”
The season has not been without hiccups though.
Macomb tennis, like every other tennis program, or athletic program in the state, must also deal with precautions and restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for Wilson and the Bombers, the desire to compete makes all the precautions and restrictions a small hurdle.
“That’s the message we preach, the restrictions are there to keep us playing,” Wilson said. “We’re getting the buy-in from the kids, they understand the more we do, the masks for example, that’s what is going to help us keep playing.
“The heat, the first three or four weeks with the 90 degree weather have been brutal, the bus rides with the masks on for two hours have been rough for the kids, but they are doing a good job of protecting each other and so far we’ve been lucky and no one has been sick.”
Macomb also knows it must not only follow their city and school rules, but the rules of other schools and cities, which at are different from venue to venue.
“Everywhere you go it’s different, one place we walked in and as soon as we got off the bus there was a woman with hand sanitizer and she was hitting your hands, some other places have been a little more relaxed, but we just stick to our masks and our standards and make sure we do everything right,” Wilson said. “I told the girls, you may see some goofy stuff, we were in Quincy last night and no one had masks on, so everyone is a little different, but we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing to keep everyone safe.”
Scheduling has also been quirky for the Bombers, who have lost several rivals this fall due to travel restrictions, but the team has been able to add new foes to the schedule.
“We have to play within our COVID region, so we’ve lost a team like Jacksonville who we’ve played for a million years because they are in a different region,” Wilson said. “But we’ve picked up other teams to replace them. The schedule has changed, a third of our matches are different, but that can be a good thing too.
“We’ve been able to add back maybe tougher matches, like Dunlap and Rock Island Alleman to replace the ones we’ve lost and we’re hoping that will help us grow.”
For now though, it is not the scheduling or travel that matter for Macomb, only continuing the season and playing as much as they can this fall.
“It’s kind of like living every day like it’s your last, I will say the school’s precautions, what we’re doing inside the school, I think we’re doing everything positive to keep this going,” Wilson said. “I know with Western and in town we have a lot going on but we’re all pretty positive we can keep this going.
“Fingers crossed, we can keep this going, keep everyone safe and healthy and give these girls a season because that’s what is most important.”