E.A. Sports Today

Thunder on the court

[corner-ad id=2]New program at JCA gives Giles exposure to regular competition, state tournaments, college scholarships

CASSIDY GILES (L), JACK TOTHEROW

CASSIDY GILES (L), JACK TOTHEROW

By Mike Pruitt
For East Alabama Sports Today

Jacksonville Christian has added a new sport to its growing athletics program this year at the urging of a local coach to help give a top junior player a platform to take her game to the next level.

The Thunder will be sponsoring varsity tennis this spring after local tennis coach Jack Totherow approached JCA principal and athletics director Tommy Miller about starting a program on behalf of Cassidy Giles, a talented senior whose stages were limited to outside tournaments.

Miller filed the necessary papers with the Alabama High School Athletic Association in May, meeting the requirements to form a tennis team for the 2015 season.

Not being on a high school team kept Giles from playing in the state tournament and in such events as the Red Wilder, the unofficial Calhoun County high school tournament. She spent most of her court time training with her coach and playing in the summer. Now she’ll have an avenue for both.

“I’m really excited, I don’t know how to explain it,” said Giles, who has been attending JCA since the 10th grade. “Since I was never on one I was used to it. I didn’t think anything about it, so I didn’t think I could actually get one here. This is like my first year doing everything and last, so I’m kind of nervous.”

Totherow privately coaches several local high school players. Most of his students are beginners, but a few not only are some of the best players in the county, but in the state, with the potential to sign collegiate scholarships. Giles is one of them.

Her team won the local Summer League with her sweeping the singles and doubles competition.

“Cassidy is a very good tennis player and she has the ability to play at the college level, but she needs the opportunity to play against other high schools to test and strengthen her abilities and attract the college level coaches,” Totherow said. “(JCA has) programs for football, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, and golf, but no tennis.”

Initially, Totherow said he was told JCA was a small school with limited resources that may make it difficult to begin a program.

Undeterred, he sought clarification and was told by Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson tennis was similar to golf in that one student could represent the school as an individual. Chloe Borders was JCA’s only golfer last spring; she finished sixth in the County Tournament and later competed in state qualifying events. Caleb McKinney was Faith Christian’s golf “team” a few years back.

Totherow relayed the participation information to Giles and her family and instructed her to talk to one of the teachers who would be willing to represent her as a coach, then reapproached Miller about establishing tennis as a spring sport at JCA.

Miller then went to work on the process and shortly afterward Giles called Totherow with the good news that the school would enter tennis as a sport in its program.

“I get all kinds of suggestions – everybody has a suggestion – the thing is to evaluate the whole situation and that’s what I did,” Miller said. “When that was brought to my attention I evaluated the whole situation to see what was possible and what was not. If we could offer an opportunity for (Giles) we’d try to. If we felt it was detrimental we wouldn’t have done it.

“As the school grows we feel that’s an opportunity other kids could have to participate and we’re hoping it would grow.”

Scott Morgan will serve as the team’s coach. Miller wasn’t immediately certain about developing a schedule for Giles to play other schools in their area. It may be difficult finding other small schools in their area that have a tennis program.

Now Giles is working the halls asking others to join the first JCA tennis team as she anticipates competing on the high school level for the first time.



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