Kramer resigns after three decades of boys tennis

Tom Kramer instructs South Whidbey High School junior Chase Collins on the proper volleying technique during a recent practice. Kramer coached the boys tennis team for more than 30 years before resigning in August.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Tom Kramer instructs South Whidbey High School junior Chase Collins on the proper volleying technique during a recent practice. Kramer coached the boys tennis team for more than 30 years before resigning in August.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Combining both boys and girls tennis, Tom Kramer coached 70 seasons.

The 71st season will have to wait.

After more than 30 years coaching tennis at South Whidbey High School, Kramer resigned from the boys program last month. The decision came earlier, soon after taking senior boys singles player Riley Newman and his sophomore sister Hayley to the state tournament.

“In June sometime, I thought, ‘Why am I still doing this?’” Kramer said.

“I coached for so many years. Time to wind down, isn’t it?”

His bosses were appreciative of his commitment to the program and building it into a successful team.

“Tom Kramer has been a rock at our school and community,” said South Whidbey principal and former athletic director John Patton in an email. “He has dedicated many hours, days, years to our student athletes.”

“I am sad that he will no longer head our boys tennis program but know that he will still be an integral part our school community.”

Assistant principal and athletic director Scott Mauk also praised Kramer’s dedication.

“There are a lot of dedicated people who have made this a really special place to play, volunteer and coach,” Mauk said in an email. “But Tom’s 70 seasons of coaching tennis has been a tremendous gift to our community, and he has left an extraordinary legacy, including Karyle succeeding him.”

Kramer had coached players to the state tournament for at least the past 10 years. Winning and losing were never considerations for his reasons to leave. The scheduling and traveling, however, were part of his decision.

“Seventy seasons is a lot,” Kramer said. “And I thought after 37 years of straight coaching, it’s time to wind down.

“I like coaching, but the season keeps going forever, the travel, the pressure — I don’t miss that.”

Building a winning program came with inherent pressure to continue his streak of success. He’s done with that, for now.

“The expectations of parents, friends and the community — I need to get that behind me,” Kramer said.

He couldn’t stay away for too long. Kramer was at a recent practice working with the boys team, leading volley drills at the net. He said he was out almost every day during the tryouts and preseason practices leading to the first game Thursday, Sept. 8 against Burlington-Edison.

“I’ve been out here almost every day,” Kramer said. “I come out for an hour or so and disappear or come in and work at school a little bit — slow withdrawal.”

“It’s just a day-to-day grind. Now, I can come out here if I want to and help out; if I have something else to do, I can do that.”

His humor and wit were as swift as his forehand. He joked about his status as a tenured history and social studies teacher, which he said is his first priority.

“I’m a short timer — it’s my 38th year teaching,” Kramer said. “I still enjoy being here.”

His daughter, Karyle Kramer, was hired to replace him as the head boys tennis coach.

In Tom Kramer’s eyes, picking Karyle was the natural choice after her involvement with the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District’s tennis programs.

“She’s been groomed for this, so to speak, mostly by herself,” Tom Kramer said. “She has a USTA certification and she’s been in the community tennis programs for years.”

With a new coach in place for the boys season and school beginning yesterday, Kramer said he was undecided on his future with the girls team — even if his bosses think otherwise.

“They’re planning on me coaching girls tennis,” Kramer said. “I’m still wavering on that one.”

He said he will decide his future with the girls team after the boys season ends in October.

“If I can’t figure that out after 70, I’m in big trouble anyway, right?” Kramer said. “It was either (coaching) or teaching, and I’m a teacher first.”

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