A tennis ball shortage has forced some coaches to scramble

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Most area teams are enjoying a season free of pandemic-related hurdles, with one major exception: a scarcity of tennis balls.

It’s an issue that plagued coaches and athletic directors since January, when tennis equipment wholesalers reported significant shipment delays and dwindling stock.

“We had a meeting of coaches the beginning of February,” Coach Paul Fisher of Robinson High said. “We were trading: ‘I got some here. I got some there. ‘ You know, that type of thing. It’s a real pain. ”

Fisher said he has been able to scrounge up enough balls by checking local and online retailers, sharing stock information with other coaches and establishing a “lifeline” with trade equipment that has managed to stock up.

But he’s still waiting on a delayed shipment from a warehouse in California, and he’s keeping his fingers crossed before the playoffs.

Oakton Coach Betsy Tyskowski ran into similar issues and has had to reuse balls more often during practice. But with continued use, tennis balls can handle unexpectedly and lose their bounce.

“I kept hearing about the same thing over and over and over how we could place order, but when they had no idea it would be fulfilled,” Tyskowski wrote in an email. “[I was] A good couple of months down the road but that would have turned out to be the case either. ”

The shortage has also been a hit to athletic department budgets; Coaches are finding the remaining stocks for sale as much as double the price last season.

Fisher and Tyskowski say the players don’t have as many accommodations to do so, but with the state championships on the horizon, finding enough balls will continue to be a challenge.

“It’s a lot, a lot of phone calls,” said Fisher, who worked with another local coach to get a few more balls this week. “We made a deal. He gave me two cases, which should get me through this week and the next, I think. I’m looking. ”

While coaching Oakton in 2001, Jean counts with her team in North Myrtle Beach, SC, when her players’ stress levels are rising. Some players’ parents were in the military, some were battling cancer, some were divorcing.

After a practice, counts and her players sat under a gazebo, where players expressed their anxieties.

“It was the most eye-opening, heart-opening experience,” said Counts, who started coaching at Madison in 2017 after winning four Virginia championships at Oakton.

Counting on how important it was to have mental health, not just to ensure her team’s success but to keep her players happy and healthy. Since then, players have had their programs called “gazebo talks.”

On Thursday, Madison (6-2) and Oakton dedicated their game to Morgan’s Message, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating mental health stigmas in sports in honor of Morgan Rodgers, a former Duke player who died in July 2019. Players delivered speeches About a game of mental health before the game, which Madison won, 12-11, on double overtime in attacker Mia Pisani’s goal.

Madison’s conversations remain focused on mental health, causing the senior Sydney Martin to ask if they can meet this season.

“I don’t really push lacrosse very often. That’s kind of like my list on the third or fourth, ”Counts said. “My whole goal is for them to really just be okay with who they are. They’re a very formative time in their lives. This position goes so deeper than putting on a whistle on your neck and saying, ‘You’re in this position.’

Potomac School Coach Wayne Loving has a routine when crafting his lineups each game. He writes the same two names in the pitching circle – Yanna Bravewolf and Abby Rebhan – almost every game.

The Panthers have flourished as a result.

With Bravewolf and Rebhan leading the charge as a potent pitching tandem, Potomac (10-1) has secured quality wins over Trinity Episcopal, Fredericksburg Christian and St. John’s. The Panthers appear to be one of the top teams in Virginia and will chase after the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I championship game appearance last season.

“Neither one of them is going to get tired of going to the regular season or once we get to the tournament time where we’re playing back-to-back days,” Loving said of his two-pitcher strategy.

Bravewolf, a four-year starter, has made a seamless transition from playing center field and first base. Rebhan, a sophomore, has blossomed into one of Loving’s “future stars.”

“They both complement each other, and so I think it’s worked out great for both of them. Every game,” Loving said.

Champe got opponents’ attention a few weeks ago when it defeated Battlefield, 6-4.

Six goals is a high school team for a lot, especially against a good Bobcats side, but the Champions Squad has made its name in the early part of this year by slotting balls into the back of the net. The Knights won their first four matches by a combined 24-2.

“It felt like we should have 10-0 even – this group has been creating so many opportunities,” Coach Jazmin Cardoso said. “Probably an average of 20 shots on goal. Those who are just finishing a matter. ”

In the same week it defeated Battlefield, Champe won a 2-2 draw against Patriot, another traditional power in Prince William County. The results are more than just score goals; They are a serious threat to the ever-competitive Cedar Run district.

Champe graduated 11 seniors last year but returned with a young and talented core. That group has been supplanted by a few new players who have missed out on high school soccer because of club responsibilities. As this new group finds its chemistry, it looks more and more dangerous.

“I’ve been at Champ for a few years, and this feels like the first time these girls are really in it together,” Cardoso said. “They’re really enjoying each other and working together. The same goal.”

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