In the sport of tennis, there are different aspects to take into consideration as a coach, when attempting to field a team. The most paramount part is numbers. After the team's numbers are up, then the program can thrive.
At Northwestern, there is neither a boys' or girls' varsity team affiliated with the school, but that doesn't stop the student-athletes who play the sport. The tennis players enrolled at NWHS do have the option to play, but not on a team…rather, they take part in the NTA (Northwestern Tennis Association). Spearheaded by Keith Nagle, the certified pro does all he can to help those students who would like to compete in the district, hone their skills, or just take lessons to learn the skills associated with the sport.
"We're offering whatever kids want," Nagle mentioned. "Some of the kids are pretty independent. Some are just looking to play, while some just like taking lessons."
Nagle is a part of the USPTA: the United States Professional Tennis Association and has been certified to provide interested enthusiasts with lessons, if they so desire.
Over the past few years, there have been some representatives from Northwestern High School taking part in the District 11 Singles and Doubles Tournaments, and some have proven to be successful.
Last spring, Wes Hoving reached the third round (quarterfinals) of the AA Boys Singles Tournament. The previous year, Nagle's daughter Christine and Rachel Kester won their first round match, before bowing out in the second round. However, not to be measured by successes, or a lack thereof, what Nagle is doing is a noteworthy service.
"We're just offering a service to the kids who want to play," Nagle admits. "We're trying to get more competition for them and the district is very cooperative in letting us get the kids from the district to participate."
The NTA is merely seven years old and still on the upswing. This season, sophomore Cory Billig will be the representative from the Northwestern School District and Nagle hopes that he can make some noise.
Before the opportunity to make some noise occurs in the District 11 Singles Tournament, however, some things need to happen. The problem with entering into the tournament as a representative from Northwestern, among other schools in the district, is that there isn't a team to play on throughout the regular season. What this presents is a lack of match experience that other student athletes possess, come tournament time.
"Often times, when we see our kids play others in the tournament, there are certain situations that athletes from the other teams will thrive on, due to their match experience," Nagle stated. "We're trying to get some independent matches lined up, but it isn't always an easy thing."
In years past, there have been schools, like Palmerton, willing to set up exhibition matches for the NTA participants. However, it isn't always easy for neighboring schools to do so, with their own regular season schedule.
Along with Bill Tritt, the varsity boys' and girls' tennis coach at Hamburg High School, Nagle continues to contribute to the furthering of skill development for the NTA. The NTA is not just limited to the Northwestern School District though.
"We're not just Northwestern," Nagle said. "We've had some kids play for Allentown Central Catholic and we have participants from the Slatington and Northampton areas, as well. We also have some parents who take lessons, too."
So it isn't just Northwestern High School students who can benefit from the service that Nagle and Tritt provide. In a sport that has been referred to as "dying," it is people like Nagle who will continue to keep the sport alive and hope for improvement in the numbers game.