Courting a new sport
Upon first glance, new Morris Community High School tennis coach Keith Anderson may not exactly look the part. Though he's known for his prowess on the football field, Anderson is out to show people that looks can be deceiving.
A standout football player for both MCHS (2000 graduate) and Ball State University, Anderson is easy to pick out in a crowd. The assistant football and wrestling coach stands a full head taller than any of his Redskins' contemporaries.
Don't let that fool you.
"I took (tennis) lessons through the eighth grade," Anderson said. "My parents (Tom and Gina) played tennis in high school and they used to take me to Gould Park to play tennis all the time. My brother (Doug) and sister (Lori) played tennis also."
Anderson took lessons from MCHS graduates Dan Raciti and Matt Gross, and he feels that from them he has learned the fundamentals enough to teach them himself.
"It's like any sport. My whole philosophy is that you should stick to the fundamentals because if you try to add too much onto that, kids can sometimes get confused a lose interest," Anderson said.
A U.S. History and Western Civilization teacher, Anderson is in his second full year at MCHS. Previous to that he has also coached and taught football in downstate Galesburg before returning to Morris.
Anderson said that he likes the athletic atmosphere at MCHS and is proud to help represent Redskins' athletics.
"Morris has a great tradition in all sports," he said. "I want to make this as fun for the kids as possible, but at the same time to let them know that it is a competitive sport and they need to give max effort."
Morris athletic director George Dergo had Anderson on his staff when he coached the Redskins in football in 2005. Anderson was the head freshman coach at the time, so Dergo knows his competitive fires.
"We've been looking to stabilize the boys tennis team because we've been in and out of coaches the last couple of years," Dergo said. "He's been an assistant coach for a number of years now, but he's been wanting to be a head coach. He'll be into it."
Anderson replaces Luke Windy, who had the job for a year after replacing Jon Lanning, who currently the head wrestling coach.
"I think he's going to earn their respect," Lanning said, "but at the same time I think those kids are going to have a lot of fun. He's going to get the most out of the guys."
Anderson was approved by the MCHS board in September.
"He's had some time to put the program together now," Dergo said. "I think the kids are looking forward to it."
Anderson is going to be assisted this spring by Becky Kopycinski — a former All-State standout at Plainfield South High School.
"She's got a good background in tennis and she'll help out a lot. They'll make a good partnership," Dergo said.
Dergo said that it's going to be fun watching Anderson in the lead role.
"He's been coaching for a long time now and he knows the kind of things that need to be done," Dergo said. "The guys are going to get the opportunity to work under his leadership. Having leadership like that in our program is nice. He's going to get kids out who will want to be involved in the program — like Lanning did. Kids who will want to come out and have fun and be successful, I think Keith will do that."
Just because Anderson anticipates it being a fun season for the netters doesn't mean that mean the guys are going to be on easy street this spring.
"The guys are going to have fun, but they are going to have to give max effort, unless they like losing," Anderson said. "But it's not so much about wins and losses that's important. It's about teaching character and making sure that the kids are giving max effort all the time."