Meet the Coach: Desert Mountain girl’s tennis coach Sheri North

It’s been a banner year for the Desert Mountain High School girl’s tennis team and while many tend to point to the coach in a situation such as this — Head Coach Sheri North points to her athletes.

Desert Mountain Head Girl’s Tennis Coach Sheri North. (Submitted Photo)

The Arizona Interscholastic Association named Coach North Division I Coach of the Year after her team won the state championship with a 5–0 drubbing of Mesa’s Mountain View High School.

“I feel honored because the award comes from peer votes from other coaches in the region and state level,” Coach North said in a May 18 written response to emailed questions.

Despite her accolades, Coach North says her team is what led to those peers recognizing her the way they did.

“I was voted on by my peers because of the exemplary skill of my players, but more importantly their sportsman-like conduct,” she said.

“Even though we beat all the other teams in the division and state by our skill level, they weren’t personally annihilated on the court by bad attitude or bad calls.”

In her four years of coaching tennis — all of which at Desert Mountain — Coach North has turned the Wolves into state champions, a feat not always easily accomplished in sports.

The Scottsdale Independent reached out to Coach North to better understand who she is and what her approach is to coaching at Desert Mountain. This is what she had to say:

•Why did you get into coaching?

The school needed a coach and I am a USTA tennis player on the faculty. I love the sport and felt I could offer something to my players.

Part of a great high school experience for students includes getting involved in activities and sports programs on campus. While this applies to the students, it also applies to the faculty.

Whenever a member of the faculty can become involved with students on a personal level or in a community of like-mindedness, through sports or other extra-curricular mentoring, the entire experience becomes a quality year for both teacher, coach and student alike.

•What is your coaching philosophy?

My philosophy rests on creating opportunity for as many as players as possible.

I knew I had some nationally ranked top-tier players, but I also new I had some players who had been on the team and had excelled over the past few years. I wanted all of my players to experience playing varsity tennis and earning a letter in the sport.

When we saw we were playing a team whose ranking was extremely disparate from our ranking, I made sure to adjust my line-up and pull some of my top line players. I was proud I had 11 players earn a varsity letter in tennis this year. When more players participate, the experience is more meaningful; more players have lasting memory.

The high school sports experience is about involvement as much as it is about winning. In the end, all become winners because the whole team wants something big. They work together and help each other.

Coaching happens player to player as much as coach to player when the team sees how important the experience becomes for everyone!

•What about coaching is the most fun to you?

My favorite part of coaching is the silliness of my players.

From match to match, I tell my players we will be focusing on a particular skill. One week, our specific skill was overheads. I give simply weekly awards for players who master specific skills in that week.

I remember one of my players was hitting overheads like crazy because she really wanted to win the fluorescent pink grip wrap. As she hit her third overhead she shouted over to me, ‘Did you see that, Coach? Are you even watching and counting? That was my third overhead so far!’ I was so pleased to see her implementing an important skill and pleased to see it pay off.

•What are the components to a successful team?

A successful team happens when everyone works together. I’m not just talking about a team working together. I’m talking about parents and players respecting and supporting their coach, players respecting and supporting each other and players respecting their opponents.

•Why do you think sports are important to a high school?

High school is a much more rigorous experience today than it was 100 years ago when I was in high school. This means kids need an outlet to alleviate their anxiety, to create relationships and to excel in something outside of academics.

We need to keep in mind, however, sports in high school don’t just serve the athlete. They serve the entire school by bringing pride to everyone in the school.

Whenever anyone wins within a community, we all feel it! Everyone at our school gets to piggyback off a school’s reputation whether that success is in tennis, robotics, debate or football.

For example, our robotics team won first place in the world championship this year. When I hear that success about our robotics team, honestly, I personally feel a sense of pride to think I work at a school where students are doing what they love and doing it to the degree that they win a world championship.

They bring pride to the name DHMS and this school begins to mean something to the community. It is the same with high school sports, a win for one is a win for all!

•Describe the moment you fell in love with the sport you coach:

I was always athletic by nature. I earned a four-year scholarship in dance to attend college and played club sports as well. I grew up in a family that excelled in many sports.

My father played on a volleyball team which competed at nationals to qualify for the Olympics. My mom played and coached softball my entire childhood.

I grew up under bleachers, I knew the smell of gymnasiums, the scent of green grass on a ball field is forever a favorite, and there is nothing quite like a huge cart full of tennis balls and the playground of a tennis court.

I guess I can’t remember when I fell in love with tennis, specifically, because I am in love with all sport.

•What advice would you give to athletes just starting out in your sport?

The more times a player hits the ball, no matter what, they will become better! Play all the time! That way even if you don’t become a high school or collegiate athlete, you will at least make friends and create a life-long habit that will keep you healthy.

•If you weren’t coaching the sport you are, what sport would you want to coach? Why?

I would want to coach softball. My mom was a great coach, so I have her mentorship in my mind. And I love the strategy a third base coach uses and the necessity of a good third base coach!

•Which coach in sports, current or retired, is one you look up to the most? Why?

My coaching heroes are highs school coaches in general. I know firsthand how underpaid high school coaches are.

The service they do for their schools and communities is just that, community service. They coach because they like kids and sports. They put up with crap from the parents and they make decisions about players everyday, decisions not everyone agrees with.

Anyone who dares to coach high school should be highly regarded because this is the level where every single player and parent is hopeful and sure their own child is the best on the team. There is so much at stake with each child in terms of self-esteem and nurturing. It’s a huge responsibility!

•When you are not coaching, what are you doing?

I enjoy playing tennis with my friends. I also enjoy decorating my house, looking at cars, and spending time outside walking or riding my bike.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.