The Bishop’s School tennis coach, Matt Copeland, gently guides his players in La Jolla
By Michael Ragovin
Last week I had an opportunity to watch a tennis match at The Bishop’s School with coach Matt Copeland, as my guide. Before the match, he shared a little bit about himself and how high school tennis works.
Copeland said he was born in Africa and raised in England. He’s been both the girls’ and boys’ tennis coach at Bishop’s for about four years. His alma mater is Point Loma Nazarene College where he played, as well as coached, tennis.
The way high school matches are scored is a little different from the standard type of scoring we are used to seeing, Copeland said. Usually, four points wins a game (must win by two points), six games wins the set, and the first person to win either two or three sets wins the match.
High school tourneys are comprised of six matches at one set a piece, including doubles and singles. The team winning the most sets wins the match. Free substitution is allowed and Copeland said he attempts to get as many different players involved as possible. In a sense, high school tennis becomes a team sport and each player has some responsibility for the team’s success.
Practice time is limited due to the players’ academic schedules. This makes it difficult for some to transition psychologically between class and tennis practice. Even though Copeland addresses individual skills as much as possible, his team emphasis is on “inner” tennis, such as strategy, conduct, demeanor, court presence, attitude, the ability to learn from every experience and focus, which might be the most important lesson of all. If focus is weak then mistakes will be made; this could be costly to victory.
Copeland said he takes a soft approach to coaching, as opposed to enforcing numerous rules and regulations. For example, if a player misses a match or two, they might not start the next match. He encourages players to analyze their performances to improve their game, striving for small changes that will prepare them for CIF at the end of the year. For the most part, strategy is discussed before the match.
During the match, Copeland told one of his players, “You are taking the ball early, your body language is upbeat and you are all over it.” In another instance, his comments to a player were, “You competed very hard in the second half of the match and became more confident, good body language, good energy. Keep the same attitude.”
As he explained his role, “It’s important for me to look at how the players take a win or a loss, and what was gained and what was learned. There is always something to learn. Everyone is different and that’s why coaching is a great thing to do.”
His influence will well serve his students far beyond their tennis careers.
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- Bishop’s School girls basketball falls to Horizon Christian Academy 55-53
- Knights soak Vikings in boys water polo at La Jolla cross-town rivalry match
- Sports roundup: La Jolla Country Day wins CIF cross-country title
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