All-Bee Athletes

Coach of the Year: Tom Gramza

School: Kingsburg





Years: Nine, all at Kingsburg

Record: 18-0 last season; 115-19 overall

Chosen because: Gramza has built a small-schools tennis dynasty at Kingsburg, which has won five Central Section titles and finished runner-up once in the past six seasons, including a championship during the Vikings' first appearance in Division III this year. After winning the Central Sequoia League title, Kingsburg earned the top seed in the eight-team bracket and defeated No. 2 and defending division champion Hanford West 6-3 in the final.

Moving on up: Kingsburg was promoted into D-III through the section's competitive equity process after winning the previous three D-IV titles. Gramza brought in a USTA coach before the season to run some clinics and better prepare the Vikings for the jump. "The guys knew that the competition was going to be harder and they did work really hard to prepare," Gramza said. "That made a big difference in rounding out their game a little more." Kingsburg was runner-up in D-IV in 2006 and won their first title under Gramza in 2007.

Background: A self-taught player who didn't make the varsity tennis team after taking up the sport before his senior year at Porterville High, Gramza spent 10 years as a youth pastor in Fresno before becoming a teacher in Kingsburg, where he has worked the past 13 years. He got into coaching through youth sports – baseball, basketball and soccer – with his children. He also coaches the boys and girls tennis teams at Rafer Johnson Junior High.

Drawing on past experiences: Gramza's work as a youth pastor provided an essential bridge into coaching, and he added that a key to the Vikings' success has been the development of an egoless group of players. "We are really big on team, guys supporting each other. ... We've been able to mix and match in doubles quite a bit because there's no 'this is my show.' The guys like each other and really help each other."

He said it: "It's important to be encouraging and you want to make the kids have fun. I like to stay in my kids' corner and keep them positive. We've found we get more out of them that way." – Gramza

Looking ahead: Gramza says he plans to coach Kingsburg High tennis "until they kick me out."

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