By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Scott Torok had little to know background in the sport of tennis.
He didn’t even think he’d enjoying coaching it. Nearly two decades later, Torok has made the Geneva program into the one by which all others are measured.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” Torok said. “I didn’t think I’d enjoy this. I wasn’t a tennis guy. I played baseball in high school. Coach (Bob) Walters (of Lakeside) always questions me that I didn’t play tennis.
“I coached softball and tennis. Tennis is what I knew the least about. I watched a lot of matches and a lot of videos on tennis. I learned from some great coaches in Arnie Bradshaw, Bob Kader, Alex Stuetzer and Phil Dubsky.”
After completing his 18th season, Torok’s Eagles are the team everyone aims to beat.
“I’d definitely say there’s pressure,” Torok said. “It’s only news if we lose. I told the girls that. We’re having a sweatshirt made up with PAC champions on the front and a bull’s eye on the back. If you ask Coach (Lou) Murphy (of Jefferson), he always circles the date they play Geneva. We’re not even in the same conference, but he still circles that match. There’s a lot of pressure. Hopefully, we’ll continue the tradition.”
Torok led Geneva to an 18-3 season and yet another Premier Athletic Conference championship. After losing their first three matches, the Eagles went on a tear, winning their final 18 matches. The doubles team of senior Alyx Lynham and freshman Amy Varckette qualified for the state tournament after playing the entire season at first and second doubles, respectively.
“It wasn’t that we played bad, we just played three very good teams,” Torok said. “Orange sent two doubles teams to state. Revere sent a number of kids to district. We do that on purpose. We want to play better teams so we got better.
“I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I don’t think anybody was. We got the kinks out and started playing well.”
Torok had lost seven seniors from the 2012 team and still put together the best team in the area. He is the 2013 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.
“Everybody was around,” Torok said. “Even Amy was around last year. They saw what we accomplished the last couple years. We graduated seven seniors — five who played on a regular basis. You’ve got to credit the girls and Dave Yost, who coaches the JVs and had girls ready for me to plug in.”
Much of the Eagles’ current success can be traced to the tradition Torok’s teams built early on.
“Success breeds success,” Torok said. “The girls have got to be self motivated, too. We always have a pool of talent to choose from. If they want to play or have a better position, they have to get better and beat the person in front of them. We had 18 or 19 girls last year. We were down to 12 this year and we lose four seniors.”
Torok is quick to deflect any credit tossed his way toward his players, their families, his assistants, and even some of the girls’ private coaches.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the girls and what they want to accomplish,” Torok said. “We provide direction. When I say we, I mean Dave Yost, Arnie Bradshaw, Todd Nassief, Alex Stuetzer and Phil Dubsky. That’s what a coach should do. You’re there to help. You get a feel for their game and you put the pieces in place.
“You’ve got to have the horses. I’ve been fortunate at Geneva to have good girls and good families who are into tennis. That helps.”
As a coach, Torok doesn’t try to force square pegs into round holes. He has a grasp of what each player wants and is willing to work toward.
“I think Alyx wanted to climb the ladder to be No. 1,” Torok said. “Some girls want to be on second doubles and that’s fine. You have to have girls at each spot.”
And what ultimately may be responsible for the Eagles’ success not only in 2013, but in every year prior, is Torok surrounds himself with players who want to be the best.
“They have to be self-motivated,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the girls and what they want to accomplish. We provide direction, and when I say we, I mean Dave Yost, Arnie Bradshaw, Todd Nassief, Alex Stuetzer and Phil Dubsky. That’s what a coach should do. You’re there to help them get a feel for their game and put the pieces in place.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.