In this edition of Reed Between the Lines: Grafton Bearcats Tennis Coach Sara De Piano
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a graduate of Grafton High School where I played tennis for four years. I also graduated from Waynesburg College (now University) where I played tennis for four years. I have worked at Taylor County Middle School for 9 years and have been the tennis coach at Grafton High School for 12 years.
When and why did you decide to get involved with coaching?
Tennis has always been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. I helped to coach some during our tournaments my senior year at Waynesburg. When I came back to Grafton after college I assisted my father that first year and then took over the program from him the following year.
What is your favorite movie about sports?
What is the most bizarre question you have ever been asked by someone about tennis?
“If the ball goes under the net and I can hit it can it still be played?”
Should high school and college tennis players be calling their own lines?
In a perfect world there would be officials present at all matches to make the calls for the players so that all they would have to worry about is playing, not whether they or their opponent has made the right call, but there are just not enough trained officials in the state for that to be possible.
What player on your team is going to surprise some people this season?
I think that Aiden Kittle will surprise a lot of people this season. He has been hitting a lot and working on his game throughout the off season. Also, Tanner Taylor has been surprising us on a regular basis since day one and I don’t see that changing in his senior year.
Give me one word to describe your father, former GHS tennis coach Alan De Piano.
Legend! And for those HIMYM fans out there, legen… wait for it… dary!
What is one rule change that you’d most like to see happen in tennis?
At the high school level I would like for there to be a 20-second crossover during a tiebreak where coaching would be allowed. Currently it is continuous play with no coaching. I think having a coaching break would be very beneficial to the players.
What are your best and worst memories in coaching?
My best coaching memories have been all the state tournaments that I have been fortunate enough to qualify players for, with this past season being the best, getting to coach Marik Chambers in the state semifinals doubles match and coaching Emilien Brazilier in the state finals. The worst memories for me are always watching a player who I have coached for four years play their final match.
How do you decide who is going to play what position? I can’t imagine it would be an easy decision.
Sometimes it is very obvious who should be playing what position (Emilien). When it is not as obvious we have the players play challenge matches and also evaluate how well they are able to transfer and use what they have learned in drills into matches and actual play.
If you could be a successful coach in another sport, what would you choose and why?
Curling. I don’t know why, there is just something about that sport that fascinates me.
What one word or phrase do you think describes you?
Keep moving forward.
What is the outlook for this year’s tennis team?
This season we will have experienced players returning as well as a good group of new players. I think both our boys and girls teams will show a lot of growth and will develop a lot of new skills that will help them succeed this season.
You get to spend the day with anyone (past or present), who do you choose and why?
Sir Andy Murray. I was fortunate to see the former champion play in his first singles match back after an injury this summer and was able to watch him practice several times. It was inspiring to watch his determination and see him push himself harder at every practice to try and get back to the level he had been at before his injury but to also develop a new skill or game plan for when he was not able to play at that level. I think I could learn a lot from him about the mental aspect of the game.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still teaching at TCMS and coaching tennis at Grafton High School. That or living in Florida and visiting Disney World at least three times a week.
What do you think you do well as a coach?
I am able to teach a new skill to all players but can adapt it as need for each player based on their specific abilities or style of play so that they are able to use it with the best results.
What do you think you need to work on as a coach?
I would like to work on continuing to be better at helping players who are struggling more mentally during a match than physically. Tennis is a very mental sport and sometimes that can be a player’s biggest struggle during a match. Our focus as coaches during some matches has to be on just keeping the player calm rather than telling them how to hit the ball or fix a shot.
Where are your favorite away tennis courts to coach?
Charleston, at the state tournament.
Should all West Virginia middle schools consider starting tennis programs?
Yes. For public high schools to ever stand a chance of being competitive on a consistent basis at the state level against private schools (whose teams consist of top players for other states and who take regular private lesson), public schools need to develop feeder programs, much like most other sports have. Plus tennis is just a fun, lifelong sport that everyone should play.
What did you think of these questions?
I tried to pay Kittle to answer them for me. They had a good variety to them and covered a lot of areas of tennis and also coaching.
*Each week the Mountain Statesman features a coach, player or personality from Taylor County. We hope you enjoy the chance to learn a little bit more about them.