- High School coaches take pride in winning, but they also take pride in teaching athletes about more than just sports.
"We're giving them something that is a lifelong skill," said Lakeland Tennis Coach Ted Dasler.
Dasler has been the head coach for the Lakeland tennis team since 1992. Each year he sets out to use life skills to coach a life-long sport.
"Integrity means that even if no one is looking, you're going to do the best you can," Dasler said. "Perseverance, it doesn't matter what the score is. If you don't take care of business if you're ahead, someone's going to be ready to take over if you let up."
Dasler also teaches lessons about resilience in the face of adversity.
"Start all over, game by game," he said. "When you get to a set somebody gets one, and after all that work, somebody gets one and the other gets zero. That's like life, you know? Life has its ups and downs"
Players say Dasler's approach helps them with one of the most important aspects of any sport.
"He instructs us about the mental game," senior Zach Carlson said. "Which is a good thing to have especially at this level. But to carry that on, I guess that's a good lesson, life lesson."
Joe Jirikowic didn't start playing tennis until his junior year, but he was able to learn the game quickly under Coach Dasler. Now, as a senior, Jirikowic has become a talented member of the varsity squad.
"Like, I wasn't very good at all to start," Jirikowic said, "and then just with a lot of practice, it makes a lot of difference if you actually enjoy it. I feel like you play a lot better when it's fun."
The Thunderbirds plan to keep having fun. Most of the players have returned from last year's team, and their talent, experience and coaching could propel them to further success--both this and beyond.