Former South Whidbey coach Tom Kramer to join state hall of fame

Tom Kramer - Record file
Tom Kramer
— image credit: Record file

Tom Kramer, a three-decade tennis coach at South Whidbey High School, will forever be in the state record books.

The recently retired teacher and tennis coach will be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame. News of the impending honor caught Kramer, infamous for his dry wit and matter-of-fact speaking, a bit by surprise this week.

“It’s an unexpected honor,” he said while taking a break from working on a tractor he uses for his South Whidbey farm. “I didn’t start out coaching to be in the Washington state hall of fame.”

“They always say nice things after you’re gone,” he added.

During the course of his storied career, Kramer built one of the most successful tennis programs in Washington. As Kramer tells it, his start with tennis was an accident. He was hired to lead the tennis team in 1978 as a fill-in after the existing tennis coach was hired in a different district. His first team had six girls on it, and he joked that he made the team manager play a match or two to fill out the varsity roster of two singles players and three doubles teams.

These days, his daughter, Karyle Kramer, runs both tennis teams, fulfilling a family legacy. The teams have surged under her guidance and the help of assistant coach Jenny Gochanour and Nancy Ricketts, a former assistant coach. All three of whom played tennis for the elder Kramer. More than 40 girls — more than the school has for available court space if each had two doubles teams on it — play tennis this season.

“At the time, he was just our coach and we won a lot,” Karyle said. “The older we get, both as parents and as coaches and teachers, the more we appreciate the sacrifice he made staying after practice with anyone, anytime.”

Eventually he was hired to coach the boys tennis team as well and went on to claim 23 district championships, 18 top-six state finishes and six state championships.

More than the many wins and a few memorable losses, Tom Kramer said he credits the players, the school athletics staff, his fellow coaches and parents for turning South Whidbey — without a covered center — into a tennis powerhouse.

“If you’ve got great kids, they make you look good,” he said.

In October 2013, South Whidbey High School inducted Kramer into the school’s hall of fame. Now, he’ll have a statewide honor to accompany his hometown award.


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