Olson sees net gain for SK

Todd Olson believes there’s no reason South Kitsap High School’s tennis teams can’t command the same kind of statewide respect its football, baseball and, most recently, basketball teams do.

All it will take is a similar commitment to excellence on the part of his atheletes.

“I don’t think tennis is emphasized the same way other sports are,” the Wolves second-year coach said. “With baseball and football and soccer, there are organized leagues from the time a kid is old enough to play,” Olson said. “By the time they reach high school, these kids have been competing for a lot of years. There haven’t been that many opportunities in tennis. Not enough, anyway.”

Olson, who had been an assistant with the boys’ team, inherited the head coaching duties last year when Eric Bergeson took over as the Wolves’ soccer coach. He added the girls’ team when Sue Berklund retired.

One of Olson’s first tasks has been to correct that shortcoming. For only the second summer in its history, South Kitsap is sponsoring a tennis camp during June for players starting in fourth grade and going all the way up to high school seniors. “Last year was the first year we did it, and the kids didn’t know what to expect from the camp or me, so we didn’t have a very good turnout,” Olson said. “This year, we’ve got 30 kids of all ages out there. It’s a big difference, and it’s going to really help this program down the road.”

Olson, native of Wyoming who played his college tennis at Montana State, envisions a day when tennis camps and year-round personal instruction provide a steady stream of talent for the SK tennis team, just as Pop Warner and local junior high school football programs continually replenish the Wolves’ gridiron material.

“It’s just a matter of giving them the opportunity,” he said. “You have to stay after it all year round. You can’t just pick up a racket when the season starts and expect to be really good.”

Both the boys and girls teams at SK finished with winning records under Olson last season, with the boys finishing fifth in the Narrows League and the girls finishing second at the district match and third at state.

Olson expects huge returns next spring from his girls team, which returns sophomores Stephanie Davison and Charlotte Duran. Davison, who finished runner-up in the state finals to Richland senior-to-be Amanda Taylor, is already nationally ranked with three years of eligibility remaining.

“She’s already great, but she has the chance to be really special,” Olson said. “She and Charlotte are perfect examples of the kind of players you want to build a program around. They play club tennis all year long and they’ve been taking lessons their whole lives. They take the sport as seriously as any football player takes his.”

For the boys, who play in the fall, Olson anticipates junior Andy Hultz will be the Wolves No. 1 singles player. “He made it to the league tournament last year and he’s matured a lot since then. He’s working hard at our camp and you can just see there’s a big difference in how he carries himself and goes about his business.”

Olson, who also teaches math at South Kitsap, works during the off-season as a tennis instructor at Pac-West in Tacoma, where he continues to nurture young players. “Tennis is like anything else in this world,” he said. “You have to make a commitment to it in order to be any good. I think a lot of these kids are ready to make that kind of commitment. They just need someone to give them the opportunity and a little instruction.”

Olson intends to be that guy.

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