Taking over for a local legend is never easy.
But that’s just what Cathy Layson was charged with when she took over the reigns of the Spring Lake varsity boys tennis team this fall.
Layson replaces Charlie Bassett, whose coaching career spanned five decades. Bassett stepped down after last season, and Layson, who had assisted Bassett the previous two years, took over.
“At first, it was kind of daunting, but I keep Charlie on a pretty short leash,” Layson said with a laugh after the Lakers’ win over Fruitport on Monday. “He’s on my speed dial. He checks in with me and I check in with him quite a bit. He keeps me on track.”
Layson said the actual coaching has been quite easy, thanks to an excellent group of boys who have earned a No. 10 ranking in Division 3.
“As far as the guys, they’re used to me nagging them at the fence,” Layson said. “Charlie’s had me very involved the last two years as an assistant, so I wasn’t anything new to them. A lot of the behind-the-scenes things has been more challenging, but it’s been fun.”
Bassett has remained close to the program he built into a powerhouse, making an appearance at almost every match, both home and away, this fall.
“He has our schedule, and the guys like to see him out here,” Layson said. “They miss him, and they respect him. They’ve learned a lot from him.”
Layson’s team looks poised to continue the tradition of excellence that Bassett left behind. They’ve had a great start to the season, and have high hopes of getting back to the state finals and improving on last year’s 10th-place finish.
They’re also eager to avenge last year’s runner-up finish to Ludington in the Lakes Eight Conference.
To do that, Layson said, they need to stay on top of their games mentally as well as physically.
“It’s really tricky to try to change things technically during the season,” she said. “We don’t want to mess too much with the game itself. I learned that from Charlie. It’s more about learning the whole game of tennis, the mental game.
“A lot of these guys play year-round, so they get the physical game. Then we have a parent who comes in and does some fine-tuning. I try to get the mental game in place — to keep the positive vibe going.”