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VanKeuren Steps In at Last Minute

By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY — June 27, 2000 -- For the Liberty boys’ varsity tennis team, this season came down to the wire. Not in the traditional sense in which a team battles to the end, but as in it was a season that almost didn’t happen.
On April 4 — just three days before Liberty Central School athletic director Tim Bult feared he would have to cancel the tennis season because he didn’t have a coach — veteran tennis pro/teacher Bill Van Keuren stepped up to the net and said he would give it a shot.
According to Bult, he was helped in his quest for a last minute coach by Steve White, tennis pro at the Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake.
Newspaper ads didn’t work, nor did flyers stuck into faculty mailboxes.
Calls to friends in the game didn’t work out either for the athletic director. Things were looking pretty grim until Bult started calling teaching pros at local tennis resorts and Van Keuren answered their cry for help.
The Indians’ savior for this season’s tennis program was born in Atlantic City, and learned to play on red clay at an early age.
At Barringer High School in Newark, he was seeded number one on the high school team. After playing tennis in college, Van Keuren started working at tennis part-time while teaching music. Since the mid-80s, he was been teaching tennis as a professional.
Van Keuren was a pro at the Concord Resort Hotel for 14 years (1984-98). Last year, he served as head pro and director of the tennis program at Hidden Valley Resort, a small resort in North Jersey. This summer, Van Keuren will be director of tennis at Eddy Farm Resort in Sparrowbush.
After 25 years in the game, Van Keuren said half-seriously, “I’ve made a million bucks hitting a ball around. It’s a lot better than a real job.”
“Generally speaking, this team has a lot of potential,” he said in evaluating the Liberty program. “It’s raw potential because they really haven’t had much coaching or instruction on how to play. They’re great athletes and good kids.”
His view of the future?
“If they’d commit themselves to the sport on a full-time basis, and not just through the three-month long tennis season, they would be competitive with any other team in the league.
“It’s a very young team, and we need guys to back them up,” added Van Keuren. “If one guy misses, we forfeit a match.”
Van Keuren’s coaching philosophy in a nutshell: “It’s my job to nurture their interest in the sport, make sure they’re having a good time and teach them sportsmanship.”
Noting there is a fine line between instruction and coaching, he added, “The kids need to start thinking about their strokes rather than playing the points.”
The Players
uChris Winters • first singles, junior: “A great athlete, but a little rough because he hasn’t had much instruction or experience. Played some pretty tough matches… has done well because of his athleticism.”
uGarry Bertholf • second singles, sophomore: “He loves the sport, you can’t get him off the court. A great athlete. It’s a matter of building his arsenal, especially his backhand and service consistency.”
uRahul Marjan • third singles, sophomore: “Great potential… has shown tremendous improvement. Needs to know how to hit the ball better and needs work on stroke production.”
uA.J. Gill • fourth singles, freshman: “Another potentially great player. He’s got that tennis build, the interest and the desire. Has some really good strokes already, but needs to develop more consistent service and gamesmanship.”
uJaycob Burns • first doubles, sophomore: “Good kid… showing an interest in coming down to Eddy Farm this summer to take lessons so he can improve his game. Has taken lessons from Pravin Singh, one of the great teachers in the area.”
uJay Champlin • first doubles, junior: “Great athlete, but not much coaching behind him. Knows how to win points, but a little rough with his technique. Needs a little more experience.”
uVincent Hahn and George Tiscalos • second doubles, seniors: “Not much instruction behind them, but steady players. Played a very good second doubles position this year.”
uIan Olsen • third doubles, eighth grader: “An up and coming star. Needs to grow strengthwise and with his speed. Needs to learn how to compose himself a little better on the court.”
uTom Trelor • third doubles, sophomore: “A lot of potential. A good athlete… likes the game a lot.”
uAdrian Ponce. “Also came out for the team. Absolutely no playing experience, but a fun kid to have around. He’s been there for some exhibitions and really supports the team.”



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