New Centralia High School boys tennis coach Scott Snyder may have more than three times the experience of his most seasoned players, but he still maintains a simple approach. This season, he will only make two requests of his players: always give 110% effort and always have fun.
It’s a difficult time to be a high school kid, he said, and there are significant stressors for students in their personal and academic lives. So, he’s working to make sure the court isn’t another high-pressure place.
“The mental part of the game, that’s my strength,” Snyder said, adding later: “I have kind of a different, I think, philosophy (for) teaching or coaching than a lot of people. I do not stress winning. I would rather the players go out and have a good time. … When you play a match there’s three things that can happen to you: you can win, you can get beat or you lose. And of course, if you lose, you beat yourself. And so, that’s what I try to coach, that part: make the opponent beat you, don’t beat yourself.”
Snyder started playing tennis at age 5. By 11, he was teaching beginners. In high school, his team won the state championship and finished second in the nation in 1979.
After starting college, he and a friend played doubles in satellite tournaments for six months. Between earnings off their wins and the costs to travel and play, they broke even financially. Snyder decided it was time to get serious about school, so he discontinued the tournaments and finished his degree in accounting, but continued teaching tennis on the side.
He eventually became a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) certified teaching pro. When his family moved to Florida, Snyder served as the interim director of tennis at Isleworth Golf & Country Club before handing the position to Ray Ruffels, an Australian pro player who made the 1978 Wimbledon mixed doubles finals (while partnered with Billie Jean King).
After that position, he coached high school tennis and group lessons in Florida, but his main focus became working with kids seeking to go pro or earn scholarships for tennis.
When he and his wife retired, they moved from Florida to Kentucky, where Snyder took time away from coaching to become a volunteer firefighter. Eventually, his dentist came to him with news of two young men playing doubles who had exhausted their search for a strong local coach. Their goal was to make it to the state tournament. With Snyder’s help, they made it to the state quarterfinals. He loved it and intended to go back and coach at the high school the following year when the pandemic cut the season after just one match.
Snyder and his wife then made the move to Lewis County to be closer to their daughter in Gaston, Oregon.
T.J. Underwood, a USPTA certified tennis pro at Thorbeckes in Chehalis, told him of the vacant head coach position for the Centralia High School boys’ team.
“And here I am; I’m back coaching,” Snyder said. “We had our first practice (Tuesday), and they’re a great group of kids. And of course Deb (Keahey), the girls’ coach, I really like her.”
He hopes his players will be able to take his lessons with them when they step off the court, saying he believes the mental toughness they gain from the sport can have a lasting impact. It’s both an individual and team sport, he said, so it fosters personal growth while teaching players to work together for a common goal.
“It just builds character,” he said.
The season’s schedule is still being finalized, though Centralia will likely play its first match in about two weeks.
“It’s just dealing with all the personalities and seeing what keywords work with certain people, and you just kind of go from there to make it work,” Snyder said. “I’ve had negative coaches, positive coaches and I think 99% of people respond to the positive. Let's make it fun and let’s make it as easy as we can.”