Miyazaki leads defending champs into new year
The Juan Diego boys tennis team started their season at Mountain View on March 18. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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Arthur Miyazaki has been coaching tennis at Juan Diego Catholic High School since 2000, a year after the school opened. He has experienced the ups and downs of the boys tennis program and he now leads them into their 2017 season.
“In the early years it was hard, we were just starting a program brand new and we struggled…It took four years to place at state” when the boys took second in 2004, Miyazaki said.
Entering their new season in March, the Soaring Eagles have now won two of the last three state titles. Senior Connor Kempin has played a major role in that.
After losing the semifinal in doubles as a freshman, Kempin was runner-up in No. 2 singles his sophomore year. He lost in the final, a match that started 30 minutes after his semifinal ran three hours. Kempin then returned in 2016 to claim the No. 2 singles crown.
“Yeah (winning) definitely gives me more experience, but playing at [No. 1 singles] this year I'm going to have a lot tougher competition so it’s going to be a lot harder,” Kempin said.
Miyazaki said Kempin is a college caliber player.
“You hope that he keeps it up and is state champion again this year,” Miyazaki said.
Kempin plays No. 1 singles this year replacing his brother Ryan, who now plays at Notre Dame with their oldest brother Brennan. It’s part of a family legacy that includes their father, who played at Utah State and is now a CEO at HEAD, a major tennis company.
“It’s hard,” Kempin said of following his brother’s legacy. “Because Ryan and Brennan are both very good and they're probably more passionate about the sport than I am so I have high expectations.”
Kempin is a quality player in his own right with his will power, ability to grind down his opponents and speed. He said he’s improved his power game this year by doing strength training every day.
“I used to be more of a pusher, but now I can actually hit the ball,” Kempin said.
Juan Diego’s ability to repeat will be tested with only two returners from last year’s team.
“I'm just hoping to get as far as we can, but mostly I want to have fun with the guys my last year,” said Kempin who will attend the University of Utah in the fall and may walk on the tennis team.
For Miyazaki, he started playing tennis in his twenties and has coached for a long time. He said seeing the players succeed giving them something to remember is what’s special for him.
“As we get older, we relive our glory years, but very few relive their glory years in the classroom. That’s where they make their money, the job they have, the college they went to,” Miyazaki said. “But when they reminisce with their buddies, I know that as we accomplish things, these kids will get memories.”
Like every caring coach, Miyazaki wants what is best for the kids. One of his players transferred schools this year. Not one to hold grudges, Miyazaki arranged a recruiting visit for the player to Saint Peters University (New Jersey).
“That's our job to prepare kids for college. If we can do it in a tennis program where they can get a tennis scholarship then I've done my job,” he said.