The rain may have soaked into the pristinely kept MC tennis courts, but Coach Jim Wrage approaches the day with the same intensity he does daily.
Wrage pulls up to the courts four hours early to begin his court cleaning process, carrying his broom and supplies with him onto the puddle-filled courts. The next half of his day is spent with a focus on drying the courts so his team can have a smooth day of practice.
Wrage is the type of coach who lets no obstacle keep his team from working hard and pushing to succeed as much as they possibly can every season. His extreme lengths to ensure practices are high quality and effective stem from his undying love for the sport.
“He’s very dedicated,” MC senior Hayes Ensign said. “He wants us to practice and he cares a lot.”
Whether through encouragement or intensive drilling, Wrage strives to bring out the best in his team.
“He’ll try to convince us that we are capable of beating our opponents,” Ensign said. “It’s not that we’re not good enough, it’s that we’re doing the wrong thing. He helps us to see tennis in a new perspective.”
Coach Wrage’s unending passion has created an environment of positivity that drives the players to press on.
“He is a very great coach,” MC senior Nathan Schwedock said. “He yells a lot, but he yells because he cares. He doesn’t like to waste time, and he’s always making us do something. One of his main phrases is ‘hustle, hit, never quit.’ He’s making us play better tennis, which is what we signed up for.”
Wrage has his own reasons for staying on the courts.
“I’ve been coaching at MC since 2005,” Wrage said. “I really like MC because they seem to get nicer kids. There’s really not too many problems at MC.”
In his time coaching, his real hope is to leave an impact on every player who he works with.
“When you play a sport in high school, that’s one of the memories you’re going to remember forever,” Wrage said. “I get my payback when I see the players as seniors going off to college and they come back around [to say hello] and I know they had a good time.”
Wrage’s passion for the sport surpasses his financial payback.
“I work so much that I probably get paid minimum wage or less,” Wrage said. “My job, besides being the driver and getting snacks and cleaning the courts and answering emails, it’s kind of never ending. You kind of have to love coaching, because you’re not exactly making a good living while you’re coaching.”
With the effort and time he places into the team, his goal is that his undying energy will spread to the players.
“I’m hoping these kids will say, ‘here’s this old guy out here, he’s out here every day, he’s out here early, doesn’t leave until everybody else is gone.’ Maybe they’ll think, ‘if Coach can do it, maybe we should do a little more for the team,’” Wrage said.
Regarding his coaching tactics, Wrage may not appear to be the greatest benefactor, but his methods are purposeful.
“I’m not the easiest coach sometimes, but good coaches have to hold you accountable,” Wrage said. “You want to have interactions with the players, and in the end there’s a lot of respect. I tell my players, ‘you may not like me, but at least we can respect each other.’ Then, down the road 20 years, they’ll be going, ‘that coach wasn’t such a bad guy after all.’”
As for the season, the team has been shaping up to work towards a CIF match, something that constantly reminds them why they practice hard.
“This year, we got a couple freshmen and we’re doing better than I thought we would,” Wrage said. “Our goal is to make it to the semifinals in Division Two playoffs. We’ll use these last matches against the Palomar League and Division One teams, which is going to be touch. I’m hoping these boys will learn from their losses and get to the playoffs and do some damage.”
The first couple of matches have seen moderate success for the team, leading to their perspective on where they stand this year in regards to other Division II teams.
“We had an interesting week [March 18-24],” Ensign said. “We played Poway, which is a very even match for us. They’re the only other team in our league that is in Division II so we are more capable of beating them. We thought we had won the match, but it turns out Coach had messed up the scores so we lost in games.”
The Poway match ended in a score of 9-9, a tie in sets. The score then comes down to games, and Poway took the upperhand in individual games won by four. This close loss served as a great motivator for the team.
“The next day we had a match against Fallbrook and we did very well,” Ensign said. “We won 16-2. It was a good week overall.”
The next week holds a tough line up of competition, which the team approaches with confidence.
“In the future we are playing Westview and Rancho Bernardo,” Schwedock said. “RB should be a close match. Hopefully we can turn the tides and come out with a win.”
On top of a successful season, the hope is that development will lead to even greater wins in the future.
“The other goal is to get the freshmen who are out here getting their butts kicked at the JV level to stick with tennis and play it all four years,” Wrage said. “You never know how you’re going to do unless you stick it out. It’s a skill sport that requires dedication.”
Regardless of the overall outcome, the players have high hopes for a strong season.
“I hope to win a CIF match or at least have a close one,” Schwedock said. “I’m determined to have a good match and end the season with a bang.”