COACHES CORNER: Mother Nature delays practice on new Caribou courts

Posted April 14, 2011, at 4:44 p.m.

CARIBOU — There’s great anticipation within the Caribou High School tennis program this spring — and right now anticipation is the operative word.

Not only is the Vikings’ girls squad the reigning Eastern Maine Class B champion with six of its top eight players back, but the team also is poised to play their matches this season on six new tennis courts that have been built at the school.

The Vikings plan to dedicate the tennis complex at their first scheduled home meet of the season against John Bapst of Bangor on Saturday, April 23. But whether coach John Habeeb’s club plays that match on schedule at the new courts or at the team’s former home base at the city’s four public courts remains dependent on the weather.

It’s not been for a lack of effort, however. In fact, much of the team’s practice time in recent days has not been about fine-tuning forehands and backhands, but about the physical conditioning that comes with such exercises as removing snow from the new courts with shovels.

“The kids have been champing at the bit to get out on the new courts,” said Habeeb. “They were able to play on them at the end of last summer, and there’s a lot of anticipation to get back out there this year.

“We’ve been out there with snowblowers and shovels, but there’s just so much more snow on these courts than on the older courts.”

Habeeb attributes that to the fact that the older public courts are located at the bottom of a hill, while the newer courts are in an area that collects snow during the winter months. Combined with generally cool evening tempuratures and no real thaw during the winter, that has allowed the snow to stay around much longer than desired this spring despite the team’s best efforts.

“We’ve broken five shovels trying to clean the courts off,” Habeeb said.

The Vikings’ veteran coach said he has put his team through some drills in the school’s gymnasium, but that has limited value.

“There are a few drills you can do inside,” he said, “but it’s not like being out on a real court hitting.”

As a result — and with a minimum number of indoor courts available in the region — Habeeb said his team has spent much of its practice time this week simply working to clear off the courts in an effort to get outside as soon as possible.

“We have not had an organized outside practice yet,” Habeeb said.

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