By Chuck Reherman
When Yukon went looking to replace the high school girls tennis coach, the search committee didn’t have to look far or long.
They had someone that would fit easily into the job “right on the court.”
Wes Ankrom, who has been coaching middle school tennis the last four years and who has been in the YPS system for 20 years, was named to take over the program this week.
Ankrom replaces Dick Villaflor, who retired after 41 years of coaching and teaching. Villaflor stepped down from the post but plans to remain active with the sport in some capacity.
Ankrom helped start the middle school tennis program, which has grown from 12 players the first year to 45-plus. Getting a chance to work with some of his former middle school players got him excited about moving to the next level and coaching.
“When I first started coaching 20 years ago, I coached middle school girls basketball, so it’s always exciting to work with a girls program and I think it will be good,” Ankrom said. “We started middle school tennis as a club sport that first year and I was the head boys coach and coach (Brian) Jarvis was the girls coach, but we worked with both teams. We may have had titles, but we coached both.
“A lot of what I wanted to do in moving up was being around learning from coach (Barney) Moon,” he said. “He is one of those coaches that I look up to and get the opportunity to coach with him and learn from him. Even in middle school, he and coach Villaflor worked a lot with us and were really involved. It was a good fit to move up and work with coach Moon.
“Plus, getting the chance to work with girls I had in middle school and see them grown from just picking up a tennis racquet in middle school and now to them getting to compete in high school and the chance to play in regionals and state. Being able to coach those girls again is exciting.”
Ankrom has held several “coaching” hats in his 20 years. He coached middle school football when the only middle school was Independence (under Dan Wilson) and working with girls basketball. He coached football for two more years after the split to two middle schools.
“I coached two more years after we went to two middle schools, then took some time off to chase my own kids around in sporting events and activities,” Ankrom said. “I got back in and worked with cross country and tennis. I felt it was time to get back in and really enjoyed coaching tennis, which has led to me to move up to high school.”
The tennis program has grown over the past decade when the Millerettes usually qualify their entire team to state. The team has gone to state as a unit six of the last seven years and that year had three events qualify.
Ankrom knows he has shoes to fill but looks forward to the help from Moon in keeping the program on an upward swing.
“There are so many sports in Yukon that do a great job, whether it is football, basketball, wrestling, they get them in the program when they are young and that is what we need to continue to do with tennis,” Ankrom said. “We have to continue to be involved middle school in getting the kids involved and hooked. Let them understand that it is competitive sport, but that is also one that can be a lifelong that you play the rest of your life. If we can build that family atmosphere from top to bottom and continue coach them up and keep them involved, the program will continue to get better.
“The biggest factor in building your high school program starts in the middle school. In having great numbers to work with and having them continue to advance through to high school. I’m excited about getting started and working with the girls and continue to build on what coach Villaflor and coach Moon have had going.”
By Chuck Reherman