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Allen Larm has coaching change of scenery
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 03/08/2017 - 12:00am
After 11 years with Buckeye girls, Larm coaching Estrella boys
Allen Larm has stepped across the net to the other side of the tennis court — figuratively speaking.
The longtime Buckeye girls tennis coach hung it up last spring, only to re-emerge this year as the boys coach at Estrella Foothills. It wasn’t an intended plan, but when tennis season approached, Larm found himself missing the sport already.
“I wanted to go away two years ago, but talking to the [Buckeye] athletic director, Pat [Witter], he thought it would be good to stay since we had just won the state championship,” Larm said. “So, I stuck around and we had a great year, made it to the final four, then made it to final four the next year. But, it got to the point where it was tiring to me. I have a lot of other things going on, and just thought it would be a good time to walk away. I left a good team this year. I never wanted to leave and have the whole thing fall apart.”
Larm’s Buckeye career was sensational. Over the course of 11 years, 2006 through 2016, Larm’s regular-season record was 145-10. He brought six of his teams as far as the state semifinals, and three reached the championship match. The 2014 team won the title, giving Buckeye its first tennis championship since 1994.
“The greatest memories, obviously winning the state championship, but we had some really good runs with different girls throughout the years,” Larm said. “Back starting in 2006, we won 56 games in a row. Then the girls that graduated as seniors this year finished 55-1 in their four years. It’s kind of neat because over time, I think we developed such a program, we expected to win. It was fun, but it was a lot of pressure, too.”
After stepping down at Buckeye, Larm said he thought he was completely done coaching high school tennis, until he got a call from Estrella Athletic Director Bill Wright.
“He called me about a week and a half before the season and said, ‘Allen, I’m just going to ask you, are you interested in coaching?’” Larm said. “I hadn’t really even thought about it, so I said give me a couple days. When I started thinking about it, what I miss about tennis is the state tournaments and stuff, when you go to Paseo [Racquet Center]. So I said, I’ll go ahead and try it, and I’m really glad I did, I really have enjoyed it. I haven’t coached boys since my son was in high school. It’s a unique opportunity, a lot of good kids, and there’s good tradition here that you can build on, as well.”
Another reason Larm didn’t originally want to commit to coaching was because his grandsons are getting older and are playing tennis, and he wanted to spend more time with them, he said.
“A lot of their stuff, as it turns out, is going to be on the weekends,” Larm said. “My wife knew that I really liked [coaching] and she really encouraged me to get back into it. I feel like right now, coaching hasn’t felt like this in a long time. For years, it was a lot of pressure. Right now, it just feels like I’m building something back up.”
Early season progress
Estrella split its first two matches under Larm, beating Agua Fria 6-3 Feb. 23, before losing to Tempe Marcos de Niza 9-0.
“It’s a team that’s getting better,” Larm said of the Wolves.
In the Agua Fria victory, Estrella won three of four tiebreakers. Had it gone the other way, the Wolves would have lost.
Sammy Harris, who plays at No. 5, lost his second set 6-0, but came back to win the third-set tiebreaker. Beau Daggett, who plays at No. 6, lost his first set, was down in the second but came back to win in a tiebreak, then won the third-set tiebreaker. Shakki Bhat, at No. 4, had the same thing happen to him.
“They had us on the ropes,” Larm said.
Estrella wasn’t able to turn the tides against Marcos de Niza like it did against Agua Fria, but Larm was still pleased that most of the match scores were close, like 3-6, 4-6, he said.
“There’s just a few things we need to learn,” Larm said. “One thing I’m really picking up with guys, I saw this [against Marcos de Niza], when they’re down, they want to try to pick it up too quick, and it just takes time. When you’re down 4-2, you’re not out there trying to hit winners, and the guys are doing that, so we’ll work on that.”
In addition to Harris, Bhat and Daggett, Estrella’s top-three players are Noah Hill, Erik Takada and Joshua Dunn. Hill and Takada will switch back and forth between Nos. 1 and 2, Larm said.
Jacob Hartwig, a newcomer to tennis, got to play at Marcos de Niza and played two good sets. He should get some more time in the starting six, also, Larm said.
Estrella played Phoenix Thunderbird Monday, losing 9-0, and hosted Desert Edge Tuesday. The result was unavailable at press time. The Wolves have some tough opponents on their schedule, which Larm is looking forward to the challenge of, he said. It’s a different feel than when he was at Buckeye.
“I’m used to showing up and winning 9-0, so it’s kind of humbling, it’s a challenge,” Larm said. “My wife said, ‘Man, when you get challenged, you want it more.’ A lot of people would be like, I don’t want to do this. She asked me if I regret coaching, and I said not at all. I said, more so than ever I want to coach. I want to help these guys. I think we’ll be the team to beat in the section.”
Estrella plays in Section III of Division II. The Wolves’ first section game is March 28 at Gila Ridge.
“I’ve been in a situation of a rebuild year before, we lost to a team 2-7, Verrado, and then beat them 6-3 [later in the season],” Larm said. “I think this team, the way they’re progressing, because they’ve progressed a lot, if we played [Marcos de Niza] later, it could be a different story. That’s how much I think we’ll improve.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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