COLUMBIA — Six years ago, Blake Edwards was a senior at Hickman High School, coming off an appearance at No. 1 singles in the state tennis tournament. The charismatic senior was heading to Washburn University, a small school in Topeka, Kan., known for its tennis program.
Now at 25, Blake is back in his hometown after an absence spent at college and in Kansas City searching for a future. Blake has found his dream job, as an assistant coach for the MU girls tennis team.
“It’s a magical feeling being back here,” Edwards said.
Starting in eighth grade, Edwards began working as an instructor at the now-defunct Woodrail Country Club in Columbia. There he became friends with fellow instructor Andy Materer who was playing tennis at Rock Bridge High School.
Materer said Blake had an ability to get kids enthused about playing tennis.
“We used to have tons of kids lined up for tennis lessons at Woodrail,” Materer said. “The thing about Blake is that he’s a great player, but he’s also got a ton of charisma.”
Edwards’ destiny as a tennis coach seemed inevitable to everyone but him.
“People always told me that I was going to be in tennis,” Edwards said. “But I was just like, ‘no way, no way will that happen.’”
For a brief time after college, he was right. Edwards spent some time in Kansas City working in public relations, his major at Washburn. The restraints of a cubicle had little hold on Edwards, though. He soon became Oakwood Country Club’s Head Tennis Professional and Director of Junior Tennis, and received his USPTA license to teach tennis.
“My boss at Oakwood actually had (MU) coach (Blake) Starkey as his best man in his wedding,” Edwards said.
This connection eventually helped Edwards get a job offer he simply he could not see himself turning down.
“It’s good to be back, Edwards said. “It’s good to reconnect with people I worked with six years ago. I get to teach. I get to coach a bunch of awesome girls.”
Materer, who is now the girls tennis coach at Hickman, is one of many that shares Edwards’ enthusiasm about returning to Columbia.
“He came back after his first year,” Materer said. “But then we hadn’t heard from him in three or four years. So everyone in town is excited to see him come back.”
MU tennis players say they are impressed with Edwards and have responded with several notable performances Sept. 8 at the Drake Invitational.
“I feel like he is completely supporting each and every one of us,” freshman Maureen Modesto said. “And I feel he really wants all of us to succeed.”
While tennis is his priority right now, Edwards’ aspirations run higher. He plans on eventually enrolling at MU and getting a master’s degree with a focus on journalism. Then, his dreams escalate to another level.
“I want to be the mayor of Columbia one day,” Edwards said.