NFA boys' tennis coach aims to instill maturity

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., May. 10, 2011
Ian Chin, first doubles player for NFA, is headed to the University of California at Berkeley next year. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Ian Chin, first doubles player for NFA, is headed to the University of California at Berkeley next year. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Norwich Free Academy’s Tom Rolfe wears a multilingual jacket to meets. Embroidered in white on NFA red is his title – boys’ tennis coach – in nine different languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew and French.

It represents the diversity of his team, whose origins range all over the globe, Rolfe said. “They’re each different, with different levels of maturity,” he said. “I think of them as my boys.

“Individually, we’ve got some strong players, but they hang together as a team,” Rolfe said. “Even when they lose, they’re coming home on the bus singing and cheerful. They’re having a good time.” The team held a 6-5 record, as of May 10.

The Wildcat tennis players include 11 sophomores this year, along with seven seniors, seven juniors and a smattering of freshmen. Top singles player Steven Petroski, who played the top position last year as well, has gone up against some of the toughest competition out there, including Griswold’s undefeated Brandon Roode.

It’s a constant, sometimes frustrating challenge that ultimately improves one’s play, said Rolfe. “He’s experienced a level of play… [with] some really good players up there,” he said. “I think that’s more important than a win-loss record.

“It’s not just about tennis,” he said. “It’s about a bunch of teenage boys growing up and maturing. We try to encourage that.” One of the team’s mottos is “You’re humble when you win, you’re gracious when you lose.”

With an eye to the future, Rolfe separates his varsity and JV players in practice and works with the junior varsity on drills while his senior captain works with the varsity players. “We spend time individually with each one, working on his stroke,” he said.

The coach hopes to “bring along the JV team enough so that we can look to a decent varsity team next year,” he said.

 

Coaches Corner-

Norwich Free Academy Head Boys’ Tennis Coach Tom Rolfe

Years coaching: 2

Rolfe is a relative newcomer to tennis himself, having learned the game just eight years ago. “I don’t kid the boys that I’m some kind of expert,” he said. “I hope to win, like any coach, but without sacrificing the boys’ integrity, sportsmanship or academics.”

 

Sports Spotlight: Players to Watch-

Ian Chin - Senior Co-Captain, Doubles 1:

Along with partner Kai Zeng, Chin plays in NFA’s top doubles team and is in his second year as a team co-captain. “He’s been very responsible and very helpful to coach,” said Rolfe. “He gets along with the boys and they look up to him.” He’s headed for the University of California at Berkeley next year.

 

Yi Chien - Junior, Singles 3:

Chien was chosen as junior co-captain by his teammates, said Rolfe. Originally partnered with Kai, he opted to play singles instead. “He’s been very helpful to coach, just like Ian,” Rolfe said.

 

Kai Zeng - Junior, Doubles 1:

Zeng plays doubles with Ian Chin. “We’re looking forward to his being a strong doubles player next year,” said Rolfe. “He’s one of those I don’t have to follow around looking over his shoulder. He’s a solid team player as well.”

 

Jean-Philip Precourt - Junior, Singles 2:

“He’s another fine young man, a very strong singles player,” said Rolfe, who cites Precourt’s consistency. “We’re looking forward to next year - he’ll be my number-one singles player next year.”


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