Turner is now a coach of the team he once played on and he says things are now brighter than ever for tennis enthusiasts now that the Chief Logan State Park Rec Center has provided more space for training and a forum for competition.
Turner’s new team will be getting ready for an upcoming St. Valentine’s Day Tournament and the coach told The Logan Banner that thanks to the new facility outstanding local players will no longer have to travel to facilities in Charleston for training.
“Our last tournament was the Halloween one,” he said. “And we are preparing for this one.”
This year’s team is a youthful one but Turner said he hopes it will be successful and will be headed back to competition at the state tournament this year.
Turner is in his second year as coach of the LHS team and he has played a major role in the development of the tennis courts at the Rec Center.
“I started playing tennis in the seventh grade and I was in the U.S. Tennis Association,” he said. “I am trying to get that started at the Rec Center.”
At LHS, Turner played under many coaches including Mark Hatcher and Tina Epperhart and was part of the team that went to the state tournament in 2003. When Turner got involved, Janie and Tim Ragland were very involved with the tennis team.
He also played tennis in college and his love of the game has lead him to coach his old team and to give tennis lessons and conduct camps.
Upon graduation, Turner returned to Logan where he began teaching, first at Logan Middle School, then at Logan High School where he teaches biology.
“It was a real experience,” he quipped.
Having played the game at a high competitive level for 10 years, it was only natural that when a coaching spot opened up, Turner stepped in and he has enjoyed it.
“We had three players last year who advanced to the state tournament,” he said. “Tourneys are good experiences for kids.”
With the new Rec Center up and running players from other counties are now coming to Logan to play in tournaments as well as to train, a factor that has Turner very excited for the future of his sport.
“The tennis facilities at the Rec Center and on the Island offer a lot of space for people to play. We have new courts and a lot more room to operate. The Rec Center has been a big help. Now, Chapmanville Middle School is starting a tennis team that will work as a feeder program,” he said.
For many years local outstanding players like A’Lee Miller had to travel to Charleston to train and compete, as Charleston and South Charleston community centers had outstanding facilities. Of course, this meant the players had to pay for gasoline and up to $45 to use them.
“Now, they can do that here for much, much less,” he said, noting that for members of the Rec Center the cost to play for an hour is around $15. “Gail Jarrett has been bringing in pros to the Rec Center, too. And now people from South Point, Huntington and Charleston are coming here to compete at the Rec Center.”
Tennis has often grown in popularity in spurts, Turner noted, saying that the game only requires two people to play and outlay for equipment is very minimal. Also, because of the numbers of students who participate in other team sports the chance for a young person to get scholarship money is greater in tennis.
In the past the popularity of tennis would catch on when outstanding icons like Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe became celebrities. The last major celebs the game has had were the Williams sisters, he noted, saying it is about time for another major tennis star to break through in the nation’s cultural scene.
Turner was the special guest speaker for the Logan Rotary Club on Nov. 23. Turner has worked at WVOW radio for seven years as the “Voice of the Wildcats” and as the P.A. announcer for Logan High School basketball for eight years. He graduated from the school in 2005, and has a bachelors’ degree from the University of Charleston and is working on his MBA.
Turner was accompanied by current LHS player Zach Hatfield and alumnus Miller, who is playing well on the West Virginia State University women’s tennis team.
“I would have liked to have had a facility like the Rec Center when I played at Logan High,” Miller said. I play sixth seed now at WVSU and I did not lose a match this year. We are going to the regionals this spring.”
Miller said the Rec Center gives young players the same competitive advantage that players in more urban areas have. “It’s a big advantage for LHS future players,” she said.
“I take advantage of the Rec Center by practicing twice a week and using the gym for conditioning,” he said.