By Matt Dahlseid
MARSHALL - Tony Alberts arrived in Marshall in 2009 and dove into coaching right away. A social studies teacher at Marshall High School, Alberts has been an assistant football coach under Terry Bahlmann and an assistant softball coach under Jack Houseman.
But deep down, Alberts has been waiting for an opportunity to get back involved in the sport that's been his biggest passion. When Holly Knudson resigned from her position as the Marshall girls' tennis coach in December, he saw his opening.
Last week, Alberts accepted the position to become the new head coach of the Tiger girls' tennis program and said he's already been at work on recruiting. He's looking for girls who show a glimmer of interest in the sport that he can help mold in an effort to strengthen the foundation of Marshall tennis.
"I think we have a good group this year and I'm really excited about coaching these girls, plus getting our community behind it," Alberts said. "I think getting youth involvement and getting the numbers back up to where they should be, that's going to be an important step."
Alberts grew up playing tennis and was a four-year member of the varsity team at Farmington. He graduated from Farmington in 1996 and later returned to the school to be an assistant boys' tennis coach under Jack Olwell, who has been there for over 20 years.
With Alberts' background in tennis, Marshall activities director Bruce Remme said hiring Alberts as the new girls' tennis coach was a logical choice.
"Tony is an energetic and enthusiastic coach," Remme said in a press release. " He has been an asset to both the football program and softball program during his time here at MHS, and we look forward to seeing him bring that same energy and commitment to the tennis program.
"Tony has been awaiting an opportunity to get back into coaching tennis, as tennis is a real passion for him. This position allows him to pursue that passion and provides our student-athletes a great teacher and role model as a leader."
The Tiger tennis team tied for the Southwest Conference regular season championship in the fall sports season, but will have to replace the leadership of three all-conference seniors.
As he works to teach the younger tennis players the game, Alberts said it's important to be able to help those players harness their emotions and create a strong work ethic.
"The game of tennis itself is an awesome game for so many reasons, but one of the fortunate things is it's a very mental game," Alberts said, "and I think learning about that mental stability and being able to deal with frustration and disappointment, as well as the good stuff, that teaches life lessons not only on the court, but off of it.
"I think that's one of the benefits that I'll be able to bring is having that background and being able to help players go through those disappointing times and having a positive outlook to keep yourself in the game."
Alberts said he has talked with Knudson and assistant coach Erik Hall about where the program has been and what they hope for it in the future. He said Hall is a good friend and plans on having him on board as an assistant next season.
When discussing his vision for the program, Alberts doesn't talk about defending conference titles or getting players to state. Instead, he speaks of developing a framework that will allow Marshall tennis to attain those accomplishments in the years to come.
"I think our goal for right now is just getting the numbers up, getting them where they should be," he said. "I think we're losing a lot of good leadership on the team. There are still good girls there, but I think numbers are going to be our first priority and making sure we get every girl who has a mind for tennis on the court and get them to fall in love with the sport."