After nearly 20 years of coaching boys’ tennis at Blake, Ted Warner is fully aware of the assumptions made of his program.
A private school with a legacy of terrific tennis, Blake has won six team and 14 individual state titles under Warner. That total likely will increase this week when the boys’ tennis state tournament gets underway at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center (Class 2A) and the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in south Minneapolis (Class 1A).
The Bears are the defending Class 1A champion and have been ranked No. 1 all year. Junior Charlie Adams is the reigning state singles champ and, with Forest Lake’s Toby Boyer, is among the best high school players in the state regardless of class. And senior Taylor Parr has a chance to win his second doubles title. Parr won with Kai Skallerud last year; he’s paired with Ben Ingbar this time.
Warner knows his team is very good. What he would like others to know is that tennis at Blake is less about winning than it is about learning.
Learning how to be a team in a sport tailored to individuals. Learning to how to be humble. And, perhaps most importantly, learning how to give back.
“We never talk about winning here,” Warner said. “We talk about respect for the game and respect for your opponents.”
That attitude shows through whenever Blake plays, but never more so than when the Bears meet an overmatched opponent in section play.
In 2013, the Blake players rounded up 26 lightly-used racquets and donated them to the Minneapolis Edison program, which had a number of players who didn’t own racquets. This year, when the Blake players completed their first-round victory over Minneapolis Roosevelt, the players elected to stick around and join forces with the Roosevelt players, splitting into teams to help the Teddies get in some much needed work.
“After a match, we usually have a 45-minute practice,” Warner said. “I asked our team if they wanted to have a team practice or if they wanted to stay and play with the Roosevelt guys. Every one of them said they wanted to play with the Roosevelt players.”
Warner said it was as important to his team as it was to Roosevelt.
“We split into doubles, one Blake player and one Roosevelt player on each team,” Warner said. “We played real tennis until the bus came. When we got done, there were a lot of smiles on both sides.”
Expect this tournament to be about team play in the truest sense. No. 1-ranked Mounds View doesn’t have the highly ranked singles player that some of the other teams have, such as Joel Richards of Minnetonka, Nick Beaty of defending champion Wayzata and Josh Gearou of Elk River. The key will be how well each of those teams can match the Mustangs’ doubles strength without sacrificing much at singles.