Coach of the Year: Olson leaves behind a long list of successes
June 20, 2012 · Updated 1:57 PM
2011: Mark Lutzenhiser
2010: Chad Nass
2009: Michael Krug
2008: Jim Fairweather
2007: Chad Nass
2006: Eric Bergeson
2005: John Callaghan
2004: Eric Bergeson
There is no shortage of successful programs in the Class 4A Narrows League.
Despite that, South Kitsap's tennis team featured both the boys (Dakota Giddings) and girls (Kailyn Skjonsby) league champions. Both also qualified for state.
For those reasons, Todd Olson is the Port Orchard Independent's Coach of the Year.
Skjonsby credits Olson for much of her success.
"He's meant everything to me," she said. "I began taking lessons from him when I was 9 years old."
When Olson took over the school's girls program a decade ago, he said he had about 20 students try out. A few years later, that number reached 90. Skjonsby said that is because Olson makes the sport fun while expecting them to work hard at the same time.
"He inspires everyone to improve," she said.
Olson said he had to generate interest in the program to build a winner.
"Just having those numbers in a sport like tennis where it is not offered at the junior high is the only way to build a successful program," he said.
That is part of the legacy he will leave. Olson told his team during a June 11 meeting that he will not return next season.
"I'm taking a little bit of a break," said Olson, whose wife, Heather, expects their second child in November. "Our family is growing, so there's no way I would have time to continue to coach."
He said he would consider coaching the Wolves again later when his children — Olson and his wife also have a 2-year-old son — are older.
Olson, who had invasive melanoma a few years ago, said his reason for stepping down solely was based on spending more time with his family.
"All my health is really good," said Olson, adding that he always has tried to stay upbeat. "Right now it is in remission and hopefully it stays that way."
Eric Bergeson, a longtime soccer coach for the Wolves who also was Olson's predecessor, filled in for him during most of that season.
"He was there for me," Olson said. "Hopefully he knows I would reciprocate."
Bergeson has helped coordinate several community-service programs at the school, including "Nothing But Nets," which provides insecticide treated mosquito bed nets to communities in Africa to combat the spread of malaria. Olson's tennis teams have been active in that and other charity events, including gathering 300 food items for donation within 16 hours.
"It's cool that our team can be this powerful," Olson said. "There's not many teams that do community-service projects."
In addition to being involved, his teams regularly had a presence at state. The highlight might have been Stephanie Davison, who won 4A state singles titles in 2004-05 before continuing onto the University of Texas. But Olson also featured several other league championships and state performers.
"The success of our program kind of hit me when I had two Rubbermaid tubs filled with trophies," he said.
Olson, who will continue to work with some players during the offseason, said he was grateful for the effort his players put in to develop the program. During his first season, Olson said some players who comment on how they won their match even though the team lost.
"They didn't understand when I took over the girls program that there was a team concept," he said.
That was a mentality Olson was raised with in sports. As a high-school student in Wyoming, Olson was a pitcher and a third baseman. He thought he would follow in the footsteps of his older sister, Cassie, who was a volleyball player at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. But similar to many baseball players, Olson only was offered a partial scholarship. When Montana State University Billings offered him a full scholarship to play tennis, Olson said it was a "no-brainer."
He later met his wife, who is from Chehalis, and also played tennis for the Yellowjackets. After graduating, the couple decided to settle in the Puget Sound region. Before he came to South, Olson was a tennis instructor at the Balley's fitness clubs in Olympia and Tacoma. He coached some future Wolves in that position when they were in elementary school.
Olson has continued forging relationships with students throughout his tenure, which he said will be the most difficult aspect of not coaching next year. But he said he has no regrets.
"It was a family decision," he said, "and it wasn't tough for me to step away for my family."