COLUMBIA — High school coaches became players Friday in the Show-Me State Games tennis tournament at Gentry Middle School.
Andy Materer and Cody Kennedy's loud grunts and groans could be heard four courts away, as they launched serves they said usually clock in at more than 100 mph. Materer has coached Hickman High School's tennis team for five years, and Kennedy will enter his third year of coaching tennis at Rolla High School this school year.
Materer said in order to understand the progression of the sport, coaches must continue to play.
"It's great to see coaches out here competing because we can stay fresh," Materer said. "Most coaches feel like they have to compete to stay sharp."
Materer, who has played in the Show-Me State Games for more than 10 years, beat Kennedy in straight sets Friday. He has won the tournament twice and finished second in 2008.
"There is a real spirit of competition because people come from all over the state to play," Materer said.
Kennedy drove about two hours from Rolla. He said the level of tennis in Rolla is different than the level in Columbia.
"We lack competitive matches on our schedules," Kennedy said. "We need to play teams like Hickman more."
Jim LaRue, commissioner of the tournament and former MU tennis coach, said Missouri as a whole lacks the facilities to compete with other states in the region. LaRue coached Missouri from 1988 to 1995.
"When it came to the Big Eight, we were ninth because we had no money, but we did have fun," LaRue said.
Columbia had an indoor tennis facility that was converted by the Missouri Athletic Club to indoor soccer. Columbia tennis still leads the state. Rock Bridge High School's boys team is a perennial finalist in the state tennis tournament.
"For a town of our size, we probably have the best teams in the state," Materer said. "We're really only an indoor facility away from becoming the best."