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Duncan High School’s new tennis complex, looking sharp in its blue and green U.S. Open color scheme, is drawing high praise for its quality and team impact.
That makes sense and seems logical. It’s a first class facility, one that can hold its own statewide, one that provides the best of surfaces, one that points to pride and commitment.
Phil Barnes, the Demons’ demanding coach, has been drawing similar rave reviews for decades.
Also for good reason.
Since inheriting a strong boys’ team from Don Douglas in 1985-86, he has elevated the program to even loftier heights, earning recognition for his teams and himself among the state’s elite. The same holds true for the girls’ team after he assumed control in 1999, again inheriting a sturdy base developed by the likes of Dennis Loafman, Beverly Barger and Peggy Hoover.
Boys’ teams led by Barnes have won six state championships, finishing second three additional times. The 2013 girls’ team was his first to win a state crown, but six previous teams finished second.
Four players have won the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award as Oklahoma’s top high school tennis’ athlete of the year.
Nineteen boys have been named all-state. Eighteen girls have earned the same honor.
Nine boys’ doubles teams have won the state championship. Three claimed state singles titles. Eleven girls’ doubles teams have won the state championship. And there have also been two girls’ singles champs.
Get the picture? Quality, Class. Success.
But there is more.
Barnes-coached teams perform in the classroom as well. Students who play on his teams are held to high scholastic standards. And they are equally as impressive.
Since 2000, five girls’ teams have won the state academic championship. The boys have won it four times.
It’s a record that clearly identifies student-athletes and the plaques that salute their accomplishments at the tennis complex add much distinction to the program and leave little doubt expectations are always high. The legacy is strong, impressive and ongoing.
Barnes, for his successes, was named girls’ coach of the year for Section 6 of the National Federation of State High School Associations last year. The award means he was judged best among girls’ tennis coaches in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas.
Six years earlier, he earned the same award as the top boys’ coach.
State coach of the year laurels have obviously accompanied the regional recognition.
He was inducted into the Duncan High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010 and it seems certain other honors and accolades will come his way in the years ahead as his competitive, stubborn spirit continues to mold young men and women.
His reputation as a coach, a teacher and an educator is solid and the grit and determination he showed years ago when dealing with cancer was an example of courage for those who knew him or knew about him.
It is only fitting school officials here name the new tennis complex in his honor.
A sign or marker identifying the eight-court complex at Spruce and 19th Street, adjacent to the administration building, should read the “Phil Barnes Tennis Complex” in appreciation for his 28-year commitment to his kids, his sport, his school and his community.
Creating a plaza within the complex that displays prominently those plaques of success and recognizing those who achieved it would be a nice touch.
So would the naming of individual courts within the complex for other Duncan state champion coaches like Douglas, Loafman, Hoover and Barger.
The tennis program at Duncan High has brought much respect to the school and the community. It is an example of the good things that happen in education when quality leaders who care give of themselves to make a positive difference. It is an example of what happens when young people embrace that same commitment and push their own paths to achieve excellence.
Phil Barnes has served well and the returns are obvious.
Attaching his name to the complex is an appropriate gesture.
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