By David Knox
The brand-new addition to the Moore County sports picture takes the court this spring.
Moore County Middle School will field a tennis team for the first time, MCHS coach and tennis program coordinator Manny Buchanan said.
Brooklyn Turner will be the team’s head coach. Once the MCHS girls’ basketball team, for which Turner is an assistant coach, ends its season, she’ll turn her full attention to that. “She played in high school I think and she is excited about being the coach of the first-year team at the middle school,” Buchanan said.
She will be assisted by Caleb Poston. Home matches will be played at Lakewood Golf and Country Club in Tullahoma, as there are no usable courts in Lynchburg or at Motlow State.
But there is news on that front. Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis procured grant money and other funding that she is using to refurbish the tennis courts at Wiseman Park, and those two courts will eventually be able to be practiced on by the MCHS and MCMS teams. “It’s going to be big for us to have courts here in the county,” Buchanan said. It’ll be easier to transport the middle-schoolers – including sixth-graders at Lynchburg Elementary School – to practice.
“The resurfacing of the courts is being funded with a combination of funds from that includes a portion of a grant from State of Tennessee Department of Health called the “Access to Health through Healthy Active Built Environments” and a recent new donation from Jack Daniel’s Distillery,” Mayor Lewis said in an email. “The distillery’s maintenance department (who always go above and beyond to help with every project) are also the ones who are moving the basketball goals off of the tennis courts and will be reinstalling them on the concrete pad next to the tennis courts. A new fence will also be put up around the tennis courts. That funding is from last year’s flood money from FEMA. The money has recently been approved.”
That has Buchanan excited, as does the prospect of a middle school program. Some 15-to-20 girls and six-to-eight boys are out for the middle school team, which begins its season in early March. Buchanan said there is room for more, especially boys; middle-schoolers in grades 6 through 8 may still contact him about playing. Last day to sign up is March 7.
Buchanan said the biggest reason for starting a middle school program is to lay the foundation as a feeder program for the high school.
“The only way to be successful is to have a feeder program,” Buchanan said. “It’s really hard to take kids that have never played before, a junior or senior, and do something with them.
“We’ve been successful but it’s just a testament to our athletes because they pick up things very quickly. But in every other program that I’ve been associated since I’ve been coaching you’ve had a feeder program.”
Buchanan was looking for something to give MCHS an edge over other schools in the district. The other programs have been in existence for some time. He decided that the middle school program was the way to go.
“It’s going to be beneficial to us because it’s the thing that sets us apart. It’s an important step to having a good high school team.”
The tennis boom in Moore County has been very gratifying to Buchanan, as has the moral and financial support of the community. “People write checks, and they may not even have children on the team or even in school,” he said. “They write checks and I don’t even know these people. And Mayor Lewis’ getting the grant and deciding to use it for the tennis courts, she didn’t have to do that. When we started tennis, it was viewed as a ‘country club sport’ and wouldn’t work here and her efforts are making it work here.”
He is still looking for other funds to help with the middle school program; some players don’t have rackets, and uniforms cost money.
Woodard’s Market has donated long-sleeve T-shirts, made by Lynchburg T-Shirt Company, for the middle school players to wear when practicing and warming up.
As the inaugural team takes to the court, Buchanan said twins Anna and Audrey Harder “seem to be the front-runners to be the top two. They’re going to be good.”
Other girls include Addison Whitaker, Emma Luna, Katy Fletcher, Macie Cashion and Aimee Cleghorn. “They’re a pretty good group of athletes.”
Among the top boys at this point are Aidan Ralston at No. 1 and Grey Rogers at No. 2. Sawyer Parks is “a really good leader who always shows up and he will do more than he’s asked to do.”
The middle school Raiders and Raiderettes will compete in a newly formed district created by Buchanan. Also in the district will be Harris Middle, Coffee County, Lincoln County, and Tullahoma Middle. The schools will play two matches apiece and hold a postseason tournament.
Buchanan knows most of the other coaches, and he said, “I think everyone is excited about it.”