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Innovative Educator: Wood River HS tennis coach used downtime to up his coaching game

After the spring high school tennis season shut down because of COVID-19, Coach Jamie Hjort decided to make the most of the opportunity.

HAILEY, Idaho — When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, it was game, set and match for the Wood River High School tennis team's season. Like schools and sports everywhere it was shut down.

"It was just sad, you know," Wood River High School Tennis Coach Jamie Hjort said.

Hjort says it was sad because the kids had put in so much time, work and dedication.

"So watching that get taken away, and you know they had set goals and not be able to try to achieve those and it just came to a screeching halt it was pretty unnerving," Hjort said. "It was sad, especially for the seniors because they don't get a chance to come back."

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But he didn't want it to end like that. So, in July, he and another coach arranged a tournament for all the kids in the Wood River Valley with Covid safety protocols in place.

"Give kids their own balls that they touch to serve with, wearing masks, social distancing, stuff like that," Hjort said. "That was a way to bring them back together and kind of get some closure on the season."

After the high school tennis season shut down Hjort decided to do something to better serve his athletes.

"I went and I just wanted to further my education a little bit as a coach, you know, get more tools for myself to help develop these kids," Hjort said.

Credit: Coach Jamie Hjort
Coach Jamie Hjort

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Hjort earned a Level Two certification through the National Federation of State High Associations. He says he took online classes on topics including coaching skills, first-aid, bridging the gap between coaches, parents and players, even online bullying.

"It's just good to give me that much more knowledge," Hjort said. "With the social media stuff like that, it's different than what I was growing up with, obviously."

It fits his philosophy that coaching is about more than teaching kids how to serve and volley.

"Providing a safe respectful environment for these kids to grow and achieve their goals, set goals both on and off the court," Hjort said.

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And he fully expects the Wood River team to be back on the court next spring. Next season will be Hjort's eighth season coaching Wood River High School Tennis.

"Tennis is a great social distancing sport. There's no contact and you're all the way across the net," Hjort said. "So I'm pretty confident that we're going to have a season, and like I said, it's a new time. We'll figure out ways to make it happen."

If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond right now send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.
Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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