South Stokes Darren Redding was recently named 2A Western Piedmont Athletic Conference tennis coach of the year after leading his ladies team to an impressive 11 wins this season.
“A lot of these girls are encouraged to be in other sports or activities, so for them to achieve what they have is pretty special. I’m happy for them and thankful to be a part of it,” Redding said.
The coach has been working with the Sauras tennis program since 2005. He’s spent the last 11 seasons with the boys’ team, and seven with the ladies.
“It’s a way to keep playing a sport I’ve always enjoyed and I get to pass along what I learned. It’s also pretty neat to coach where I went to high school and be on the same courts where I spent four years playing,” Redding said.
Redding first took up tennis at Chestnut Grove Middle and went on to play four years at South Stokes and three years at Surry Community College. At the junior college level he helped lead his team to a conference title before continuing on in league tennis.
Coaching has allowed Redding to keep the tennis culture thriving at South and instill an athletic work ethic in today’s players.
“You have to practice to be good at something. In order to earn the benefits of a sport you have to put in the effort. I’ve loved being able to see that in a lot of kids,” he said.
Redding is the first to admit it isn’t easy to stand behind a fence when his team is playing competitive matches.
“They’ll tell you I hate watching because I want to jump right in there and talk them through it,” he said. “You just want to see them succeed. But you can’t do it for them. They have to want it themselves.”
Over the years the coach has watched his ladies team grow into strong competitors. This season, his seven seniors went from a 0-16 season their freshman year to placing second in the WPAC. That athletic mentality has become contagious, Redding said.
“This team worked really well together. But most importantly, my younger girls got to see how hard work and effort pays off. They want to continue to be a part of something special. One of my players has signed up for tennis camp and is already talking about next season,” he said.
Another high point for the coach was seeing his fifth seed junior, Jenny Smith go undefeated in the conference and finish the season 14-1.
“They’re beginning to understand to be good at this level it requires working and practicing year round. These girls deserve all the credit. I’m happy for them and for our program,” the coach said.
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.