South Whidbey girls tennis coaches to finish career at the end of the season

Karyle Kramer, the girls head coach since 2012, plans to retire along with her assistant coaches.


Special to the News-Times

When South Whidbey’s girls tennis season concludes, it will mark the first time in over 40 years that a member of the Kramer family hasn’t been the coach.

Karyle Kramer, who has been the girls head coach since 2012, is planning to retire along with her assistant coaches, Bess Windecker-Nelson and Jenny Gochanour.

“For me it seemed to be a good, natural stopping point,” Kramer said. Her daughter, Pearl Buck, who is a member of the tennis team, is graduating. “I like to stop while it still feels really good.”

Pearl, along with Windecker-Nelson’s daughter, Mikaela, are South Whidbey’s number-one doubles team. Kramer’s two other children, Levi and Ranger, competed in tennis at South Whidbey. She was the head coach of the boys team from 1994 to 2021.

Her father, Tom, previously coached the Falcons tennis program since 1978. Tom still volunteers with the team.

“It’s pretty special to have a father/daughter run a program,” said Paul Lagerstedt, athletic director at South Whidbey. The Kramers are known in the community and former students who played tennis at South Whidbey have had children compete in the tennis program.

“She feels she is a steward of a highly successful program,” Lagerstedt said. Karyle Kramer coaches the right way – the lessons she teaches are life lessons.

“The kids will care about how much you know when they know how much you care,” Lagerstedt said.

When Tom took over the program in 1978, he was the only coach for a team that had seven girls. He took over the boys team in 1980 and had 15 players on the team.

The girls team won the state titles in 1988, 1989, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2009, Tom Kramer said. Over the years he’s seen South Whidbey compete in different classifications. South Whidbey was a school that competed in 1A, 2A, and 3A classifications over the years.

Karyle Kramer, Windecker-Nelson and Grochanour are South Whidbey alums and competed on the tennis team throughout high school. Kramer and Windecker-Nelson played tennis in college at the University of Puget Sound.

Kramer also highlighted a couple of former coaches who also had children compete in the program. Nancy Ricketts helped coach the boys and girls team for 26 seasons and Rachael Clement who coached for eight seasons.

“We’ve all just stepped up at different times,” Kramer said.

South Whidbey is a member of a competitive Emerald Sound Conference where 10 of the 14 schools are private.

“It’s not uncommon for a private school to have an incoming freshman place at state,” Kramer said.

Longdecker-Nelson said she enjoyed teaching kids a sport they can play for life while Gochanour said she took joy in seeing students who had never played tennis become part of the team.

In the meantime, the coaches are busy guiding players through a successful season that included recent wins against Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Granite Falls.