Coach Serves Up Ideas For Tennis

N. Carroll's Lynam Urges Using Regional Playoffs, 2 State Tourneys

May 19, 1991|By Ed McDonough | Ed McDonough,Staff writer

North Carroll High tennis coach John Lynam is spearheading a move torevamp the state's postseason tennis tournaments.

After surveyingcoaches and athletic directors from around the state, Lynam has proposed splitting the state tennis tournament into two events -- one forlarge schools and another for smaller ones -- and scrapping the district format in favor of the regional tournaments used in other sports.

"The district is an outdated way of operating in a playoff system," said Westminster High boys coach Fran McCullin. "The region formathas the support of coaches in the county and most in the district."

The proposal format would be similar to the state wrestling tournament, which crowns individual champions from the smaller Class 1A and2A schools separate from the larger Class 3A and 4A schools. Only tennis and golf crown state champs from all state schools, regardless of size.

The district tourneys are set up along geographic administrative areas, and Carroll's District V also includes Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties. With 34 schools, it is by far the largest of the state's eight districts, most of which have about 20 schools.

While Carroll's teams do well in the Central Maryland Conference,few players reach the district finals and qualify for state tourneys.

"All year long we compete against people from the western districtand we light them up all year long," McCullin said. "The same kids that people from Carroll have been beating like a drum all year are playing (in the state tournament) while we're sitting home."

Severalother county coaches echoed McCullin's thoughts.

"I think it's great," South Carroll coach Jim Carnes said of the proposed change in format. "We're in the dark ages in tennis."

The district format wasused to advance teams to the state tournaments in most sports through the mid-1970s. But as more schools around the state expanded their athletic programs, the regional format became prevalent.

Another portion of Lynam's plan -- and one that may not have as much acceptance among coaches and administrators around the state -- is standardizing the format of regular-season play around the state.

In the CMC and Monocacy Valley Athletic League, for example, teams have separateboys and girls matches, with two singles and three doubles matches per contest, for a total of five points. In many areas, boys and girlsare combined into single teams, with a varying number of matches.

Baltimore County teams play for seven points -- two boys singles, two girls singles, one boys doubles, one girls doubles and one mixed doubles.

In Howard County, teams play two of each match type, exceptfor just one mixed doubles match. The home coach also selects the seeded players to compete in events.

So, for example, if a team withtwo strong singles players is visiting, the coach can force them to play as a doubles team, meaning they can combine to score just one team point instead of two.

McCullin, who played his high school tennis at Randallstown High in Baltimore County, said he didn't like the mixed doubles format as a player and didn't like it when he coached Westminster in the old Big Ten Conference, which included Anne Arundelteams.

"Coaches, almost to a person, hate the mixed doubles point," he said. "All of the pressure is on the girl to handle the boy's shot. You don't want mixed doubles to be the deciding factor."

But the plan to standardize the format into separate boys and girls teamsmay not be accepted for several reasons, coaches said.

For example, small, rural schools with three or fewer courts available might not be able to handle the 10 matches in a timely fashion. (In Carroll, only Key falls in that category, and it plays some matches at courts in Taneytown.)

To alleviate that problem, Lynam's proposal suggests splitting sites, with the boys team at one and the girls team at another. That could create transportation headaches and, more importantly, would mean all teams would have to have two coaches.

"Some of these (proposals) have money considerations, not for the MPSSAA but for the school systems," said Edward F. "Ned" Sparks, Maryland Public School Scholastic Athletic Association executive director. "This is probably the worst time (to add expenses)."

Carnes, who said he enthusiastically supports the playoff plan, doesn't support standard formats.

"Some of the things are out of (coaches') control," he said."You can't tell people how to schedule."

While McCullin said the plan would reduce local autonomy, he said that would be a favorable trade-off if it made scheduling intercounty matches easier.

The proposal was made to the MPSSAA's executive committee last month ; it isreviewing the plans to make sure they conform to the group's bylaws.From there, the state tennis committee votes on the idea, Sparks said.

McCullin said he believes the proposal would not be implementedbefore the 1993 tourney.

Liberty coach Bruce Damasio praised the work of Lynam and the support of Earl Hersh, the county's supervisor of athletics and physical education, who presented the plan to the state's athletic directors last month.

"John's the driving force behind this," he said. "And Earl did go to bat for us."

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