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Former longtime Pride coach is back at helm
Jeff Hayes returns for second stint with Pitman tennis
Pitman tennis 2
Ashley Byers of Pitman will be one of the top six singles players for the Pride this upcoming season. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Pitman's varsity tennis team has a different coach, but he isn't new.

Jeff Hayes, who was a 10-year head coach at Pitman for the boys’ and girls’ tennis squads since the 2003-04 seasons, took a sabbatical before deciding to return.

“I’ve been teaching at Pitman since 2003 and the last four years I took a break and coach Doug Reimers took over the program and he decided to call it quits and I am back now,” said Hayes.

Reimers, who is also a teacher at Pitman, decided to retire from coaching after four years.

When the opening became available, Hayes responded.

“With that decade of coaching and throw in one year of wrestling, I just needed a break to spend more time with family and my boys are older, so I decided finally time to come back,” said Hayes. “Coaching year after year, you get worn down. But it’s  to take a break and now it’s fresh, a new intensity.”

He also decided to bring on a former player of his in Michael Davis, to help assist in the progression of this year’s roster.

“It’s nice to see,” said Hayes of Davis coming back. “It's a family and this is where I began coaching, but it will be tough since we have some competitive programs in the area and for boys as well.”

A former Oakdale Mustang during his high school days, Hayes knows a couple of things about winning and being competitive and is confident on what he brings to the team.

The team also looks to have a solid four singles player that could potentially vie for a top spot in the Central California Conference.

Although Turlock is the favorites to repeat, the Pride know that they are capable of giving their crosstown opponents a good match.

Lane Hayman and Ashley Byers will take on the leadership roles as some of the top seniors. Byers was No. 8 last year and Hayman was steady as the No. 3 singles player.

“It’s tough to learn the skill, proper etiquette, rules and be your own judge and keep your composure as well under all circumstances,” said Hayes. “It's a lot to ask for a kid, and so a lot of what we do is teach skill, but more of it is character.”

Karen Kahlon and Ashlynne Smith will also be in the mix for the top six spots after playing consistently at No. 5 and No. 4, respectively.

“So much of this sport is skill involved but a whole lot of mental game as well,” said Hayes. “It’s not about wins and losses, it’s about growth. Grow as a team, character growth and skills and as long as the girls go out there and are being competitive, mentally and physically, I will be proud of them.

“It’s fresh, any time there is a change of coach you will see growing pains, but they are all eager to play and all trying to make the team,” he added. “In the past we have had as many as 30 kids but we have six courts and looking to build a program so we will wind it down to 18. It might get bigger over the years, but for now I want to build a tight core and go from there.”