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High school tennis: Ada coach Skip Griese is leaving a legacy


Skip Griese is making his 70th trip to a state high school tennis tournament this weekend, but it will be his final one as Ada’s head tennis coach.

For 35 years Griese has led both the boys’ and girls’ tennis programs in Ada. During that time the Cougars have won 13 boys’ and girls’ state championships, including eight in the last seven years.

Sixty-eight of his tennis players have won individual state championships. The Cougars succeed even though few of their players go on to play collegiate tennis.

“We just play all the time,” said Griese, who learned the game as a fifth-grader from his mother. “In Ada there is not a lot of other things to do except go to the tennis courts. We just show up at the courts and play.

“The kids come to the tennis courts in the summer time. Some of them will come there at 8 o’clock in the morning and won’t leave until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Only Dick Villaflor at Yukon and Duncan’s Phillip Barnes have been coaching high school tennis in Oklahoma longer than Griese (pronounced Gri-say).

“The influence he’s had on tennis has been tremendous,” Villaflor said of Griese. “He’s influenced a lot of coaches in a positive way and what he has done in the Ada community, I can’t imagine what Ada would have done without him.

“His influence is so huge everybody wants to emulate what Ada does.”

Griese’s father was in the military so the family moved quite often. They were living in Norman during Griese’s senior year of high school when he qualified to the state tennis tournament, losing in the quarterfinals.

He was good enough as a player to earn a partial scholarship to East Central University in Ada and eventually became the tennis coach at his alma mater.

He took over the Ada tennis program in 1984 because it was a better job. The Cougars already had nine state tennis championships when Griese arrived.

“Everybody gets involved (in tennis),” Griese said. “Kids come back who have played before. We have just had tremendous support from parents and administration. It’s just a community effort.”

Griese, who turns 65 in September, said he’s been blessed the past 35 years. During the boys’ state tennis tournament Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center, the Cougars are playing in shirts emblazoned with a photo of their head coach and the inscription: The Man, The Myth, The Legend.

Terry Swopes, who has coached by Griese’s side for the past 14 years, is set to become the next Ada head coach. Griese, though, won’t be going away.

Even in retirement, he expects to spend the first two weekends in May at the same place he has for the past 35 years: the girls’ and boys’ state high school tennis tournaments.

“This is the best two weeks of the year for me,” Griese said. “I will be here helping Terry. It will be a different capacity. Let’s put it this way, I won’t be the bus driver next year.”

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›