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Johnny Mack Brown returns to FDA tennis

Fort Dale Academy head tennis coach Johnny Mack Brown made a return to the school after a nine-year absence Thursday as the Eagles opened the season against Springwood School.

Brown has a long, well-decorated past with the FDA tennis program, coaching for 15 years and leading the FDA girls to eight state championships during that timeframe.

Brown said that despite his lengthy absence from the program, it’s almost like he never left.

“So far, it’s been great,” Brown said. “Some of the kids that were really young when I left Fort Dale are on the tennis team now.  It’s like we’re having a little bit of a reunion.  The kids have been nothing but great.

“They were down in numbers, but now we’re overflowing out there.  That’s been the best part.  And everybody has a great attitude so far.”

The increase in membership is just one of many surprises in store for his return.

“They had to go and get a fifth-grade boy last year just to make five on the team, and we’ve got eight this year,” Brown said.

“And the girls team was down, and we’ve got 10 or 11 girls this year.  I guess some of the kids I knew when I was there decided to come back to tennis.

“It’s been strange but fun to look at all of these people to know you.  I look at them and I know a few of their faces that I’ve kept up with over the years; the rest of them, I don’t know who they are, but they all know me.  I’ve changed a little bit over the past nine years, but they’ve changed a lot.”

Springwood School proved no match for the FDA girls as they took a 6-1 win over their visiting opponent, though the FDA boys lost each of their matches.

“We had a couple of boys that decided they wouldn’t play their senior year, and a couple of girls, so that kind of put us back a little bit,” Brown said.

“For many of the boys, that was their first match Thursday. But they’ve worked really hard.  The girls are a little more experienced—the three juniors have had several years of experience, and they did really well yesterday.  I was very pleased with them.”

This season, Brown aims to focus on acclimating his newer players to the game of tennis.  For five of them, Thursday was their first experience in an official match.

“I just keep telling them let’s get a little better every day, and by the end of the year we’ll have something,” Brown said.

Fort Dale will face Lee-Scott Monday in Greenville starting at 3 p.m.