|Crystal Lowe, Portland
|Todd Moore, Hudsonville
Crystal Lowe, who grew up in Holly, started playing tennis the summer after her 6th grade year. The following summer, she signed up for the Holly Summer Tennis Program and loved it so much that she continued in middle school. In high school, she played for Hall of Famer Bill McDaniel.
"One of the biggest regrets have was quitting tennis and not playing on the high school team my senior year because I wanted to play singles and was informed that it was not an option for me," she says. "It's kind of ironic now because I absolutely love doubles."
At Holly, Crystal was captain of both the volleyball and soccer teams her senior year— a four-year letter winner in soccer and a two-year letter winner in volleyball. Indeed, volleyball was her major sport: she played AAU and her focus there was primary.
However, at Western Michigan University, she took an introductory tennis class for one of her physical education requirements. After doing basic drills during the first class, the instructor, upon learning that Crystal had been playing since the 6th grade, offered her an assistant position in exchange for an A. "Maybe that's when the coaching bug bit me," she says.
After being hired in Portland as a French and government teacher, Crystal found herself chatting with Jim Niebling (Hall of Fame Class of 2012) and mentioned that she had grown up and played tennis in Holly. Being familiar with the strength of the Holly program, Jim asked if she were interested in volunteering some time to help out the girls team. "I hadn't picked up a racquet in years but it sounded like fun," she recalls. "I had never even thought about coaching when I started teaching in Portland."
That was 18 years ago. "She is professional, innovative, and loyal," says Jim. "But while she has been instrumental in taking players from being true beginners in tennis to being ready for a spot in the varsity line-up in a pretty good program, her most notable attribute is the way in which she always makes the players she coaches love to be there every day. While they learned a lot from her, they never realized just how much they were learning because they were having so much fun along the way."
Jim appreciates what tennis coaches throughout the state know: that consistency and continuity in a program is fundamental. Indeed, 16 years of support by a skilled and enthusiastic assistant is a distinct advantage.
Paul is speaking of Todd Moore, his assistant of five years. "Our daughters are what you call best friends," he says. "I am a firm believer in having good assistant coaches and I didn't waste any time asking Todd to help once his daughter was on the team. He and I had played tennis together as doubles partners during some pickup winter and summer matches so I knew he was more than capable of helping our team."
As it turns out, his help involved a sacrifice. "Todd coaches the doubles at Hudsonville, yet his daughter plays #1 singles," says Paul. "So he is usually off at another site coaching other players and doesn't get to watch his own daughter play the sport that he loves. I also have kids (sons) who play high school and middle school tennis and understand the huge sacrifice that Todd makes for the team."
There is also the sacrifice of time. "I own an asphalt company," says Todd. "Coaching in the spring can be a little difficult in my business." Nevertheless, he finds time to play tennis 3-4 times a week and plays USTA events as well.
Indeed, Todd, who grew up in Fennville, started playing tennis at age 10. A good athlete, he advanced to the state tournament in both track (discus and high jump) and tennis. He also played basketball and football but serious football injuries ended any chance of playing in college. He graduated from Northwood Institute with a business degree.
"Todd is the first one to arrive at practice or matches and the last one to leave," says Paul. "When I arrive to a practice or a match, the balls are out and the score cards have been set up. When it rains, he arrives even earlier to roli dry the courts. His emphasis on technique and playing defensive tennis make the Hudsonville program unique as players improve in every phase of the game. He stresses fundamentals and learning how to play the game the right way. As a result, his players are known to have a high Tennis IQ."
Alas, Todd will retire as Paul's assistant. His daughter Amanda, the 1S player who trained at Jorge Capestany's program at the Dewitt Tennis Center in Holland, graduated in May 2015. She is attending Georgetown College in Kentucky on a tennis scholarship. Once again Dad will sacrifice, this time to attend her matches in the spring.