Some thought South Whidbey High School senior Kody Newman was out of his mind when he switched fall sports, changing from tennis to football two years ago.
“I was called crazy by a few of the local tennis guys,” Newman said, “but I do not regret the decision at all.”
After Newman placed fourth in the state in singles his freshman year and earned all-conference honors, some couldn’t believe he would turn away from the sport.
Besides, tennis is the Newman family’s game. Kody is the last of Mike and Pam Newman’s seven children. The siblings enjoyed great success in tennis, including three state titles won by Lindsey and another by Riley.
After Kody finished fourth as a freshman, it looked like his was on his way to adding another state championship trophy to the family display case.
“I wanted a road paved out just for me,” Kody Newman said. “I wanted to do my own thing.”
That “own thing” included switching sports in the spring as well. After two impressive seasons in soccer, he changed to baseball last year.
The result of the moves: Newman proved to be one of the most diverse and talented athletes in South Whidbey history. He has now earned varsity letters in five sports and excelled in all.
The learning curve when playing a new sport is steep, but Newman aced all the tests. Not only did he jump into football, but he started on both offense and defense, including mastering the sport’s most demanding position, quarterback.
Last fall, and after only two years in the sport, he was named first-team, all-North Sound Conference as a defensive back and second team as a quarterback.
His move to baseball also produced positive results. Newman played two of the most difficult positions, pitcher and shortstop, and was a second-team, all-Cascade Conference selection as an infielder.
In the one sport he played all four years, basketball, he shined the brightest. Newman was a first-team, all-league player as a junior and will likely be again this year when conference awards are announced.
He finished his career with 1,039 points, which he accomplished in only three years.
“As a freshman he was good enough to play varsity, but due to low numbers he was forced to play JV,” basketball coach Mike Washington said. “Kody was fine with this, which shows the type of person he is.”
Basketball is also his favorite sport: “Big crowds, fans rushing the court after a game-winning shot — it’s great.”
Washington said, “He has a no-quit attitude and is very coachable. He’s had to fight through a lot of comparisons with his siblings, but performed well throughout his career.
Something that did separate Kody from his siblings in basketball, Washington added, is that Kody is a champion. As a junior, Newman helped the Falcons win their first basketball league title in 29 years.
Reasons for changes
Newman said one of the reasons he chose to play football instead of tennis was because Mark Hodson returned as coach after taking several years off.
“I really enjoyed him (Hodson) as a teacher,” Newman said. “He is all about the community and the island and he lives down the street from us — a neighborhood guy — so I thought I would give it a shot.”
Hodson said, “Having Kody out for football these past two years has been great. So fun to work with an athlete who is willing to be coached and so competitive.”
Newman said he was also drawn in by the allure of Friday Night Lights — the atmosphere and pageantry of high school football.
“I would have five fans watching me play tennis — my family and friends,” he said. “The whole community comes out for football.”
He is also happy with his decision to play baseball.
“Some of my favorite guys are out there,” he said. “We are chewing seeds; it’s laid back; we are surrounded by a bunch of good guys.”
Baseball coach Tom Fallon said Newman was a perfect fit for his team last spring. The varsity roster was almost all freshmen and sophomores, and Newman’s leadership and experience was invaluable to the young club.
He said Newman was “really raw” as a player, but his competitiveness and willingness to be coached helped him develop into a strong contributor.
Behind all Newman’s success is his family.
“As far back as I can remember, I have had a basketball in my hands,” he said. “First I was rebounding for my brother; when I got older, it was one-on-one.”
He noted his parents are his No. 1 fans.
“My dad will catch passes for me, rebound for me,” he said. “Just the other day he sat on a bucket and caught a few of my fastballs.”
The Newman family is all about sports, he said. “It’s a way to connect. Some of my siblings flew in to see me play basketball on Senior Night.”
He added that his parents were supportive of his decision to drop tennis.
“They said, ‘Don’t worry about your last name and what is expected of you. Just have fun, and we will support you,’” he said.
Newman may return to tennis in college. Right now he hopes to go to Skagit Valley College and play basketball. If time permits with hoops and his studies to be a firefighter, he would like to give tennis another try.
The future after college may include dabbling in a sixth sport — pickleball.
His siblings Riley and Lindsey play professional pickleball and recently captured the triple crown in a tournament in Oregon. The pair each won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at the competition.
“I’m intrigued by it,” he said. “I could see myself playing pickleball.”
Once Newman leaves South Whidbey High School, the thing he will miss most is the relationships.
“It’s a small town and everyone is close,” he said. Although Newman left the soccer program, the coach, Emerson Robbins, would help him out if asked, Newman explained.
“That’s the way it is around here.”