COLUMN: Lafayette tennis coach Debbie Swindoll is on a mission to change and educate all at the same time. Swindoll, who is in her second year leading the Commodores, is ready to see the MHSAA change the way the team tennis playoffs are decided.
The Commodores, who play their second-round match against Pontotoc at the courts behind Oxford-University Stadium today, have only gotten better under Swindoll’s guidance and no matter what happens against the Warriors, the program is headed in the right direction.
But while Swindoll feels encouraged about where her returning players are headed, it’s obvious she is not as sure as to where tennis is headed in the state of Mississippi. She has been a little frustrated with how the MHSAA playoffs were handled this year and she is hoping that a change is made for future seasons.
The MHSAA made a few tweaks to its tennis championships this year. Instead of allowing teams to play the title matches of their respective classes first like they most recently have, the individual tournament begins first on May 7. After the two-day tournament is concluded, teams that reached the finals will play to decide a champion. That means students will be out of class for three straight days, something coaches don’t like because it leaves players without as much rest as they are normally used to. The team championships will also be played at different sites from the individual tournament, another fact that coaches aren’t overly thrilled about.
“I’m good with the playoffs other than what we’ve done with these individual players. You have to play four matches and then represent your team. It’s no way to do it,” Swindoll said. “(The MHSAA’s) rational was that everybody was going to be worn down. Injuries could happen in the individual matches. It’s the epitome of something passing and everybody not knowing what the ruling was and where it went to. I’m not happy about it in any form or fashion. Until we can get it changed back and go through all the channels, we got to live with it.”
College format wanted
In a perfect scenario, Swindoll would like to see the team championships decided how college teams hold them. That means playing three doubles matches and then six singles matches to garner the necessary points to win. Swindoll, who played at Mississippi State, also pointed out that the state is one of the only ones that still has co-ed teams. She is also hoping that two teams can be created in the future to better serve all those that play.
“I would like to see high school tennis take a step to making our players more prepared for college tennis. The way we are now in it, they’re not prepared for college tennis,” Swindoll said. “If Mallory (Davis) hadn’t played in a lot of tournaments and see what she could do in singles, (college coaches) are not automatically going to recruit somebody that has won high school doubles. They don’t know what they can do because they are two different things. I just don’t think we’re helping our players in the state. Not that (co-ed tennis) isn’t fun, but when they added another day which is an extra expense for us to have to travel, for what point? To get a few extra people down to Jackson that were going anyway?
“I’m really saying this as much as anything for the purity of the game and as a former four-time state champion and as the mother of a daughter that has three state titles and a son that has had one. We need to move forward, we need to help our players,” Swindoll added. “We found about all these changes back in March and a lot of the people didn’t have a clue that this was going to happen. They don’t understand it. I don’t understand the rational but I’m learning as I go.” (April 26, 2012, Page 6)