All We Do Is Win!: Big Mac Team Tennis setting standard for excellence, making history
When the MacArthur tennis coaching position came open in 2014, it was one that Brandon Blake jumped at.
Serving as the golf coach three years prior, Blake – who played tennis collegiately at Sterling College, an NAIA program in Kansas – decided to take over the program.
"I wanted to jump on the opportunity," Blake, who is in his seventh season leading the program, said. "To me the kids were really close, and they were starting to compete."
Since taking over in the Fall of 2014, Blake has guided the program to win now five-straight District Championships, 50 team tennis matches since 2015 and has posted a 35-0 mark in district the last five years.
Winning is engrained at MacArthur on the tennis courts.
"Our success at the top with varsity took the upperclassmen learning what it took to win," Blake said. "And then getting our younger classmen seeing the amount of work it would take to get to that point."
In the 2020 UIL Team Tennis playoffs, MacArthur made history defeating Oak Ridge, 10-9, in the bi-district round, securing the school's first-ever playoff victory in the 55-year history of the school.
"We are laying the foundation for future tennis players, we are raising the bar for the goals and dreams our kids have," MacArthur assistant tennis coach Alan Davila said. "Playing college tennis is now something our kids not only want to do, it's something they can do, having a state run in the playoffs is now something we CAN do. With hard work and determination anything is possible!"
MacArthur faces Cy Woods on Friday at 2 p.m. at Klein Cain High School in the Area Round of the 2020 UIL Team Tennis Playoffs.
Bi-District Champions! Generals win and advance to the Area round of playoffs for the first time ever in our schools 55yr history!
It's also the first time a team from Aldine ISD advances to the 2nd round of the UIL Team Tennis playoffs in the 21st century! #EarnHistory #MPND pic.twitter.com/CQf4SyCgWt
— MacArthur Tennis (@MacArthurTennis) October 28, 2020
When Blake came in, doubles play was something they really focused on. In team tennis, Blake said he saw how much of an impact jumping out to a lead with doubles could do. So, for two to three years they emphasized doubles play.
That emphasis has paid off, notching team tennis wins over programs like Kingwood Park and Atascocita over the past few years.
Unlike in programs like that, Blake does not get polished tennis stars when they arrive on campus come the ninth grade. Instead, Blake said many start playing in the eighth grade or some don't start playing until their freshman year.
Despite that, five-straight years, MacArthur has won the district crown.
"It's what keeps me coming back to MacArthur," Blake said. "It's fun to work with kids who haven't played and are basically brand new to the sport. The kids who have gotten it, who are swinging and hitting the ball as they should as upperclassmen realize they can invest in those kids too.
"It's been really good and has been very rewarding."
When Blake finished his college career, jumping into teaching was not his first path. After a few different careers, Blake got into education, which he had been around growing up with his parents. His father, Dennis, was in education for 40 years, more than half coaching basketball, tennis, and track.
Tennis and basketball were two of the sports Blake saw his father coach the most.
"I'd be in the locker room, I was the coach's kid and just hung on every word he said and watched everything he did," Blake said. "He was an example for me and gave me a passion for sports and coaching. He was the one that planted the seed before the opportunity came up."
As Blake continues to build his program, he said they will continue to try and grow the numbers as they move forward. Going down to the middle school and ninth-grade campus will be key and Blake said they need to keep developing the younger tennis players.
Going into 2021, MacArthur will be seeking its sixth-straight district crown and continue building their program.You can see this article and photos in the upcoming VYPE Aldine ISD Fall 2020 Magazine! Be on the lookout for that in the next couple of weeks!