Teaching tennis and much more

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Good serve,” city of Pelham Tennis Pro Ken Vines said to one of his middle school players. “Remember, you don’t want to stand wide when you serve. You’ve gotta cover the whole court.” Vines watched the player win her next point. “Good playin’ girl,” he said before heading off to encourage someone else.

Riverchase Middle School seventh-grade tennis players Meagan Massey and Daniel Palacios smile with coach Ken Vines after a big win against Westminster. (Contributed)

Vines came to work for the city of Pelham in 1986. “We had four tennis courts and that was it. There was no building or anything else just four courts,” Vines said. “I’d taught lessons at several parks and clubs, but coming to Pelham when I did was great timing. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Vines taught lessons and started league tennis and soon, those four courts were not enough. The city built a tennis center and more courts. Eventually, Pelham’s tennis expanded to include the Pelham Tennis Center and the Pelham Racquet Club.

Vines still calls Pelham Tennis Center home, while moving back and forth between that site and the Pelham Racquet Club, as tennis events and his middle school kids’ matches necessitate.

Vines estimated he’s been working with middle school tennis in Pelham for the better part of 20 years.

Riverchase Middle School and Helena Middle School have combined to create one middle school tennis team since Helena Middle opened. Longtime tennis coach Tricia Roberts left Riverchase Middle to go to Helena Middle. Not wanting to leave Riverchase without a tennis program, Roberts worked hard to keep the sport alive at both schools during the transition.

This year, Riverchase Middle School teacher Shauna Stewart is the new tennis coach working with Vines. Joseph Cochran from Helena Elementary School serves as the Helena Middle School coach.

Stewart is impressed with Vines. “Ken Vines is really good with the kids. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff,” she said. “Because he is so patient and kind, the kids work hard for him. They really respect him.”

“Coach Ken helps us improve by showing us what we can do better,” RMS eighth-grader Elaina LaBoone said. “He points out what we’re doing wrong so we can be our best.”

Committed to improvement, steady progress and excellent tennis etiquette, Ken Vines fosters a spirit of teamwork and positivity that teaches middle-school students how to excel in tennis-and in life.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.