By VINCE PELUSO
Admittedly, track will always be Beth Simpson’s first love.
The Edgewood girls track and field coach, doesn’t pretend that she feels as passionately about other sports as she does about track.
But, Simpson was the Warriors assistant girls tennis coach last year and when Beth Williams was unable to stay on as coach this season, Simpson stepped up and accepted the position.
“My dad (Dave Simpson) coached tennis at Conneaut for 25 years, I know how to play tennis and have played it throughout my life,” Simpson said. “It’s not my passion like track is but Beth Williams, who was the coach last year, had a baby who is five months old because of that she wasn’t able to do it again this year. So the job was posted and I was approached about it taking from (athletic director) Steve (Kray).”
While Simpson might not know tennis the way she knows track, the thought of not stepping up when the program was in need of a coach was the ultimate motivating tool in her desire to step into the head coaching realm for tennis.
“Ultimately I took the job because I couldn’t stomach the thought that the girls wouldn’t get to play this season because they didn’t have a coach,” she said. “So despite my lack of experience (with tennis) and busy schedule I decided I had to help out.”
While Simpson has some familiarity with her players as an assistant last year, much of what the Warriors do on the courts this year will be new due to the loss of four seniors from last season’s squad.
Still, Simpson likes some of the youth the roster offers.
“We start practice on Monday so we’ll see shows up and where they are,” she said. “I know there have been some coming and hitting on their own which is fantastic because we lost four seniors. When you’re only fielding nine players, that’s half of your varsity squad.
“But, our MIP (most improved player) Allison Massaro is back as a junior. So that’s exciting, she ended the season playing some strong tennis. We also have Bronte Adams, who was a freshman last year and is a very competitive and intelligent young lady. She’s got a lot of potential as a sophomore so I’m looking for her to start strong this year. It’ll be a young team but it has some good talent.”
With just one year of coaching tennis under her belt, Simpson admits her biggest hurdle this season will be experience.
“The biggest challenge will definitely be my experience with tennis,” she said. “I’ve done the administrative stuff with track, but just the particular experience with the minutia of tennis will be my adjustment this year. I’ve been in contact with Beth Williams and she’s definitely interested in helping and coming back to some practices.
“She had some guest coaches this last year come in so I’m getting in touch with them so they can come in and share their experience and wisdom with the girls, too.”
While all those potential influences will help, Simpson said there will be no better source of knowledge than her father.
“I played for my dad in seventh grade and last year when I told him I was going to be an assistant tennis coach he just laughed,” she said. “He walked into his den and handed me a stack of books, materials, articles he’d cut out, this binder full of information he’s collected over the years. Of course he’s a really good resource and a good guy that if I need something I can say, ‘hey dad, I’ve got a question.’ He has that experience that I’m currently lacking so he’s a fantastic resource.
“Tennis is something he loves doing and he’ll help with information and ideas even though I’m at Edgewood.”
While gaining more experience is something Simpson said she knows she has to do, she is looking forward to the personal interaction she’ll get to have with her players, something that can be harder in bigger team sports such as track.
“There’s something about tennis, that small group of girls where if you’re traveling I drive the van and it’s just me and the girls, it’s kind of cool in the way a small town has that comfortable feel, it’s like that,” she said. “There’s a ton of girls in the other sports and I don’t get to have that interaction time with every single one of them. You get that special feeling, that bonding time when you’re traveling and in the van spending time together.”
Evidently, those players returning from last season enjoyed having Simpson around, as well.
“The girls are so funny, they came up to me and kept saying, ‘are you going to coach? You gotta coach!” she said. “You get to hang out with them so much and they’re good kids and just really nice girls who enjoy playing.”
Simpson said those personalities, as well as the opportunity to coach more of the young talent she feels is at Edgewood is something she’s looking forward to this fall.
“I really enjoy coaching and seeing them improve and there is just so much young talent at Edgewood right now,” she said. “I really want to turn that talent into something successful and I hope we can do that with tennis, too.”