Two coaches, one philosophy. That's one way to sum up the White Bear Lake Area High School boys and girls tennis teams, with coaches Jackson Farley and Christine Anderson at the helm.
Anderson played varsity girls tennis at WBLAHS in the late 1980s and early ’90s, became a certified teaching pro and taught the game at Golden Valley Country Club; she also coached the WBLAHS girls’ team from 2014 to 2016. In 2014-15, the girls team finished second to Mahtomedi, and she was named section coach of the year. She is back this year after spending time in Suwanee, Ga, where her son, Austin, was training at Lifetime Tennis Academy and finishing high school. Her other son, Cooper, just finished his sophomore year at WBLAHS as his team’s No. 1 singles player.
Farley was captain of the WBL 2007 squad his senior year and played one year at Winona State University before the program was discontinued. For two years, he was girls JV coach under Christine Anderson and has been head coach for girls tennis since last fall. He has also coached at White Bear Yacht Club, Dellwood Country Club and Life Time Fitness.
Their coaching philosophy is simple: No one gets cut. Try-outs and roster cuts are a necessary evil in sports like hockey, basketball and football, where coaches must limit roster numbers. But the WBLAHS varsity tennis teams are open to any eligible student who wants to come out and play. As a result, more than 130 kids annually participate in the WBLAHS tennis program, and the game has reached a new level of popularity.
Anderson instituted the no-cut policy when she started coaching the boys teams six years ago and the girls team two years ago. “Tennis is a lifelong sport. Even if [people] don't start until they are 17, they can play until they're 80 or 90," she says.
“We want as many kids as want to come out and play and have fun. If they are serious about the game, we want to help them get better,” Farley says. “Christine always wants the players to do better than the year before,” Farley says. “I take the same approach. If I learn something new I want to try, I let her know and we go from there. We also want to make sure that the kids are not just learning to play tennis, they are also learning to be good people.”
Having more kids playing raises awareness of the sport, says Anderson, noting that the coaches have lobbied for resurfacing of school and other public courts so more people have access.
Gabby Potthoff, a graduating senior who was last season's girls team captain, has been in the tennis program since middle school. She’s participated in four sports at WBLAHS, but tennis stands out “because of the personal relationships the coaches form with each kid,” she says. “Their coaching during matches is exceptional. They keep you positive, which is important because tennis can be a frustrating sport.”
Anderson says she and Farley are “on the same page; we work together well. It's such a short season, my strategy is to try to get the kids to do the best with the tools they have,” she says. “One of Jackson’s strengths is teaching the technical side of the game; he’s been instrumental in developing players behind the scenes. And the kids love him. Together, it's a great team.”