WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The state playoffs for high school tennis start tomorrow. For one tennis coach in Wilmington, the playoffs are nothing new. That's because Tanky Meier has been coaching tennis at New Hanover High School since 1950.
Meier played tennis at New Hanover from 19837 to 1939. He left his tennis serve behind to serve overseas his country in WWII. Then it was off to NC State, and then in 1950 Meier started a long and productive volunteer coaching career at his alma mater.
"I've never been paid," he said. "I'm not very bright."
So back in 1950 when you first started coaching at New Hanover did he ever imagine he'd be sitting here in 2011 still doing it?
"Frankly I wasn't sure that I'd even be sitting here period at 88 years old," Meier said.
New Hanover High School has had 12 different head tennis coaches since 1950, including the legendary Jap Davis and current head coach David Henry. Strangely, they all have one thing in common.
"I've never had one that ever picked up a tennis racquet," Meier said. "So I just did
all the teaching and coaching and we've worked it out very nicely."
"His knowledge of the game is certainly timeless," Henry said. "He's seen the game of
tennis go through a lot of phases."
Meier said, "Nowadays the boys just want to hit the ball hard. They've come out with
these composite racquets that have bigger heads, and they think they can hit harder. The thing that I have the most trouble with is overhitting. They want to kill the ball. It's become a game of too many errors, and I'm still a great advocate of keeping the ball in play on the court."
For this veteran of the game, it's not just talk. Many moons ago Meier won the City of Wilmington singles tennis championship, so he definitely speaks from experience.
"I will say that the boys in the beginning, when I would teach them something or talk to them, they'd say, 'Yes, sir,' and go out and do it," Meier said. "Nowadays it's gotten around to an awful lot of debating."
Essentially students in this era aren't quite as receptive to instruction, but talentwise, Meier says this year's team is good.
"In fact they're the best ever," he said. "This has been my strongest from top to bottom."
Clearly Coach Meier is a proud man, but he's a bit embarrassed over the fact the tennis complex at New Hanover is named in his honor.
"I'm the first graduate of this high school to have one of the facilities named after him, and that is unusual, and it's something I normally don't tell people," he said.
"The courts are named after him, but these are the newer version," Henry said. "They
redid these courts a few years ago, but Tanky actually built these courts."
Meier has never won a state championship. Perhaps this will be the year. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 3 in North Carolina.