Natchez, Vicksburg tennis players meetPublished 12:01am Wednesday, July 25, 2012
NATCHEZ — They told Rick Shields he would make a good coach, and though Shields didn’t believe them, he decided to take their word for it.mystery
Seven years later, the St. Aloysius High School tennis coach is glad he gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Shields and members of his squad were at the Duncan Park tennis complex Tuesday morning, teaming up with local tennis players in preparation for the Junior Tennis Team tournament in Jackson this weekend. For Shields, it was just another opportunity to do what he does best: coach youth tennis.
After graduating from Vicksburg High School and Alcorn State University, Shields kept playing the sport he loved for a little while, but he eventually moved to Huntsville, Ala., and dropped the sport. Before moving back to Vicksburg in 2005, he picked up the sport again got involved with a local adult league in Vicksburg.
“They told me I should work with kids,” Shields said. “I guess they thought I had the temperament to deal with youth. I didn’t really see it, but I took their advice, and the rest is history.”
After a two-year coaching stop at Warren Central, the Vicksburg native took over at St. Al in 2007. Working with youth and helping improve their game is something Shields said he’s learned to appreciate.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s fun to see kids go from barely being able to hold a tennis racket to being a college athlete,” Shields said.
Shields said his players would be facing off against their Natchez counterparts at the tournament this weekend, and he thought it best to team up with Duncan Park Tennis Director Henry Harris and get the athletes use to playing against each other.
“We wanted them to mesh before the tournament,” Shields said.
Steven Cialone, a rising senior at St. Al, said Tuesday wasn’t his first time in Natchez. He’s played district tournaments in Natchez and has gotten to know some of the Cathedral High School players over his career.
“I know Dwain (Perkins) really well,” Cialone said. “He used to play against me and my partner, Michael Foley, in doubles. He plays singles now, so I don’t get to see him as much.”
Cialone said he expected to get plenty of work from Harris’ drills.
“I’m just going to listen to the pro and let him help me,” Cialone said. “I need good practice. I feel like he can help me, so I want to get as much in today as I can.”
As a rising senior, Cialone said he’s aiming for a third straight doubles state championship in MHSAA Class 1A this coming school year. He also said he wants his team to win it all. Events like the Junior Tennis Team tournament can only help him better himself as a player, Cialone said.
“This helps my game a lot,” Cialone said. “I also play so, so I don’t get to play it as much when I’m doing that. Tennis is not something you can stop. It’s a year-round sport.”
Perkins, who graduated from Cathedral this past spring, will play for the Belhaven University tennis team. Practices like Tuesday’s are a good way to keep in tennis shape, Perkins said.
“I just want to win,” Perkins said about his Saturday matches. “I want to win as much as I play. Toward the end of the summer, I’m also going to work out with the Alcorn tennis players.”
Perkins said he would arrive at Belhaven Aug. 16, and he said he’s not too uncomfortable with the thought of moving away from Natchez.
“Most of my friends are going to Belhaven,” Perkins said. “It’s always good to go to a school with a real tennis program, and Belhaven is a really good tennis school. They’ll help me get better.”