By Kenton Hartle
For the past 25 years, Alan Wofford has been the boys and girls tennis coach at Lehi High School, a remarkable accomplishment filled with many incredible memories along with many even more incredible friendships.
I had the privilege of interviewing Wofford after practice on an overcast, yet warm, Monday evening on the grassy area between the historic Lehi tennis courts, with the rustle and bustle of Lehi’s Main Street during rush hour in the background. Having coached next to that busy and loud street for 25 years now, Coach Al has become quite oblivious and accustomed to the noise.
Other school’s tennis teams claim that the noise of Main Street provides a home-court advantage for the Pioneers, but Wofford and the Lehi players embrace the noise as one of the many things that make Lehi tennis so unique and so special.
Tennis is what has brought, and continues to bring people together at Lehi High. But what KEEPS the people together, is the inevitable friendship one discovers when a part of the Lehi tennis program.
This factor of friendship that comes with being part of our team, is what Wofford says is one of his favorite things about Lehi tennis. He said his “favorite part (of coaching) is the players,” and that he “has made some really good friends over the years.”
Driving the Pioneer Bus
One of the greatest non-player friendships that has been produced through Pioneer tennis is that between Al Wofford and Greg Lewis. Lewis is a vital factor in a good majority of our matches.
Just who is Greg Lewis? He is the designated tennis team bus driver.
I asked Coach Wofford about his friendship with Lewis, and Wofford just laughed and told me that a couple of years ago, Lewis took the tennis team down to St. George for the annual Duel in the Desert Tournament.
Following that trip, he asked Wofford if he could be the team’s official bus driver, and since then he hasn’t stopped getting the tennis team to where its needs to be. The two have become such good friends after so many years of Lewis taking Wofford and the team to different schools all over the state of Utah.
Not only is Wofford a dedicated and inspiring tennis coach, he is also a history teacher at Lehi Junior High School. The coach has a passion for teaching history, and has traveled to several different countries all over the world.
He says coaching tennis “has been one of the coolest things in (his) teaching career as well.”
Teaching at the junior high has also helped with Wofford’s tennis coaching. Having met and convinced several of his junior high students to give the sport of tennis a shot, many of these students picked up rackets for the first time and have yet to put it down.
One of the students Al convinced to give tennis a shot is Tyler Miller, now a senior at Lehi. Tyler started playing tennis in eighth grade and made the high school team his freshman year. Tyler quickly made his way through the team rankings, and found himself playing varsity No. 1 singles as a sophomore, which is an extremely rare, and difficult task to accomplish. Tyler attributes most of his success to Wofford and his example.
Growing Up With Lehi Tennis
The year Alan started coaching at Lehi High, the school had just barely moved from Class 2A to being a 3A school, which is wild to think because now Lehi is a 5A school, and one of the biggest schools in the state of Utah.
Wofford said watching the city of Lehi and Lehi High School change and grow exponentially over the years “it’s been pretty incredible just because there are so many more kids, and the competition has also gotten a lot better.”
I asked Coach Wofford, what it is, after 25 years, other than the increasingly competitive competition, that keeps him coming back year after year to coach. Wofford repeated his same answer to a previous question and said, “What keeps me coming back…is the players.”
I asked Wofford what makes Lehi High School tennis, and the tennis players therein, different from other schools.
“I think, I’m biased, but I think we have the best kids in Lehi,” Wofford said. “I’ve gotten this comment from a lot of coaches, and that is that Lehi tennis players have a lot of school spirit, they support each other, they’re good sports. I like it when everyone thanks the bus drivers and thanks the people who run the tournaments. Also, we are always competitive.”
I asked Wofford, at the end of the interview, to share just a slice of wisdom that he has learned over the past 25 years, and his response addressed the work ethic that leads to athletic success.
“One thing I’ve noticed, whether it’s in a practice or in a match match, if a person is willing to work hard and play hard they can actually compensate for a lot of other areas that they might be deficient in,” Wofford said. “I just think that the idea of a person working hard, doing all they can to win, is something that transfers into everything that you do.”
These three words to me, is what Lehi tennis is all about, and what Al Wofford has implemented into the tennis program at Lehi High School. When we play, we fight. And if we are willing to fight hard enough, our actions and efforts will pay off.
I, myself, along with hundreds of other current and past Lehi tennis players, am grateful for the dedication, the inspiration and the friendship that our coach, Alan Wofford has exemplified in his coaching career.
I know that several years down the road, I will still be able to drive up to the Lehi High School tennis courts, and see Al running a game of Offense/Defense, and catch up with not only a past coach, but a friend.
Thank you Alan Wofford for 25 years of unwavering dedication to the Lehi High School tennis team.
Lehi High senior Kenton Hartle wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year. Hartle is a student in the Lehi sports marketing class and is the school’s student body president. He is also a Pioneer tennis player.