The Grossmont High girls tennis coach still plays alone

Probably the best player on the Hillary Park women’s tennis team is Coach Hillary Park.

Park, 52, said, “Oh, I’m a better player now than I was when I graduated from Grossmont High in 1988. I’ve been working on flattening the ball and the ball the last couple of years.

“I’m always learning and trying to improve myself. When I was in high school I competed in CIF singles, but I changed my forehand five years ago. Now I play a lot more aggressively.”

Park, she is twenty-seven years old.The tenth During the season at Grossmont High, where she teaches Spanish, she plays almost every weekend, but a little less frequently during the high school girls tennis season as she tries to fit her game into the Foothillers’ schedule.

Late last month, she and her 1998 partner, Janet Bodney, reached the final of the San Diego Tennis Championships at the Barnes Center, where they lost.

“They wiped our clock,” said Park, who was not shy about assessing their performance. “We never played against them, never saw them because one of them was from Orange County. The other, Cerez Mioli, is a coach at Del Norte.

“I guess if we had thrown the ball earlier in the game we could have gone in the goal. By the time we realized it was working, it was too late.”

“But that’s exactly what I teach the players at Grossmont. I asked them, win or lose, “What can you learn from this?” And I tell them, “Tomorrow is another day.”

“What made the loss so disappointing is that we don’t have an answer for what they did. I always ask, “What can I do better?” But we didn’t explore them and we both had tough matches just to win the championship.”

Tennis, like golf, is a lifelong sport, something you can play as long as you like. She incorporates this fact into her teaching.

“I focus on teaching my players to compete, be part of a team, be responsible, be good sportsmen, win and lose with kindness,” Park said. “My goal is for them to have a positive experience during the three months we all meet.

“For me, that’s more important than winning titles and championships. Of course, winning is more fun than losing, but everything that surrounds the moments of the game: the practices, the competitions, the training, the conversations are just as important. Most teenagers can benefit from working with an adult who can guide them in the right way. direction, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

He has trained prominent figures such as Erica Tower (1998) and Kristina Wojciechovich (2009). As for the team, Grossmont has won the Hills League title in 14 of Park’s 27 years, including 10 consecutive years from 1999 to 2008 and most recently in 2015.

“My freshman year we made it to the second division final against San Pasqual,” Park said. “I went down to the last game. In the beginning we needed to win a set but we couldn’t so we lost 10-8. It was blocked all the way.”

Even getting close isn’t a bad thing for a program that doesn’t feature players born with a club in hand or decades of USTA Junior Championship experience.

“The word is how we get most of our players,” Park said. “They usually play another sport or just want to play to make friends.

“I took Erica for three years as a Spanish student and became the head coach in her second year. We named Kristina KK because we had a lot of Kristins and Kristas and we still call her that. His father was an Olympic swimmer. coach and his mother played basketball and track in high school.

“If I had the resources when I was young, it would have been better.”

Park has an obvious nickname and is not a “coach”.

“The players called me Señorita Park because I’m a Spanish teacher first and a coach second,” Park said. “I don’t speak English in class. Some of my students go to tennis matches to hear me speak English.”

Meanwhile, Park continued to play and get better. She says she is a 4.5 player in a sport where most college players are in the 5.0 to 5.5 range.

“Oh, the students are going to kill me because they have more power,” Park said with a smile. “I play in my fifties and sometimes I go down to the forties in age group tournaments.

“I love playing tennis and competing. I enjoy and learn all the time.

Steve Brand is a freelance writer.

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