Next year, Washington High School will field a competitive tennis team for the first time in its history.
At its monthly meeting Wednesday night, the Washington School Board voted 5-0 to approve a girls’ team to compete next fall after Activities Director Bill Deckelman presented the feasibility of a team and gave his recommendation for approval. Dan Leslie and Scott Byrne did not attend the meeting for personal reasons. Deckelman called women’s tennis “one of the most demanded sports” in her 17 years as athletic director.
With the courts at Phoenix Park, Deckelman said Washington now has a good place to host a meet. He said he wasn’t too concerned about tennis poaching of athletes from other fall sports; the students who have approached him about starting a team have mostly not competed in a fall sport. In fact, Deckelman said, the team could be a good sport for beginners who want to play a sport for life. He compared tennis to the boys’ and girls’ swim teams and the girls’ golf team, which were added in the 2014-15 season and have seen consistent participation since.
“I don’t think we should go out and think we’ll have kids at Wimbledon level right away, but I do think we’ll have kids who want to learn the sport,” Deckelman told the board.
The team is a low-cost business, Deckelman said. He estimated the cost to the district in the first season would be between $12,800 and $15,000 and between $7,800 and $10,000 for the second. Supplies and start-up equipment make up the bulk of this cost, with an estimated cost of $5,000. The coach’s salary could range from $3,887 to $6,000, according to Deckelman’s report.
Deckelman told the board that the boys aren’t interested in building a team and Title IX isn’t much of a concern, as the boys have opportunities in four fall sports, including a football team of 70 to 80 people. He said he hoped to have eight to 12 athletes for the inaugural season, and since the schools in the Gateway Athletic Conference already have a team, scheduling games wouldn’t present too much of a challenge.
The only other high school in Franklin County to have had a girls’ tennis team is Fulton School in St. Albans.
“We’re excited to provide different things for our kids to do at school here because it’s such an important part of their time in high school, participating in extracurricular activities and interscholastic sports,” Deckelman said. in an interview after the meeting.