Livingston Lions tennis and head coach Scotty McFarlain have a new playground to display their talents.
The Lion tennis team has been one of the more successful athletic groups on campus, despite not having a home court or the ability to host a meet.
“After doing this for 13 years, everything was travel — travel for practice, travel for a match,” McFarlain said.
“It is almost surreal. I step through that gate and it is like almost stepping into a different town. When I step out of the gate, I’m back in our town. It’s like a porthole. This is really nice — better than nice.”
In a meet that included Crosby, Shepherd, Liberty, Splendora, and Diboll, the team was able to showcase its new home, finishing second overall on Thursday.
Before the courts were completed, students were bused to Matthews Street Park, where a time slot was reserved and others waited for them to finish.
“Our JV class, which is fifth period, had to go dress out, bus over to Matthews Park, practice for about 15-18 minutes, dress again and go to lunch,” McFarlain said.
“After school, they would bus back again and get in another hour. The varsity eighth period class was worth it. We would dress out and go over and get two hours of practice. In the fall, our home matches were at Willis’ place, and that’s not a home match. That was all we could do.”
The coach is hoping for restrooms and a storage room sometime in the future. Currently restrooms and most equipment is a lengthy hike back into the school or a 15-minute drive over to Matthews Street Park.
The court visibility also keeps the sport in the thoughts of students, who can see the complex upon entering and exiting campus. Many have told the coach they will be coming out to participate, something he welcomes.
“A lot of kids think they will just walk out here and be good, but it doesn’t happen that way,” McFarlain said. “I try to tell people it takes two years worth of practice to be a JV-level player. It takes four years of real hard work to be considered a good player.”
There are eight courts on campus, where there were just four at the park. In past practices, two courts would be full of varsity players, while a logjam of 27 students crowded onto the other two.
Those learning the game are hitting a lot more tennis balls and getting in a lot more practice because they can spread out instead of waiting their turn.
“Now, JV comes out here in fifth period and gets 45 minutes of practice, and comes out after school to get another solid hour and a half. It is a huge, huge difference. Without the travel time, it has added 30 minutes to practice every day.”