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Midvale Journal

Newly appointed Hillcrest boys’ tennis coach to teach fundamentals, build program’s foundation

Feb 03, 2022 03:33PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High named its new boys’ tennis coach, Tui Satuala (center), who is seen alongside girls’ tennis coaches Chris Chun (left) and Creighton Chun. (Photo courtesy of Tui Satuala/Hillcrest High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Brian Yu began playing tennis in middle school, after watching his brother compete at Hillcrest High. Now as a junior, he is one of two returning varsity players for the Huskies.

“We graduated eight seniors, so pretty much all our varsity team,” he said. “Aarav Parikh, who was a freshman last year, is pretty good and plays club; he will likely be our No. 1 singles player.”

Yu played doubles last year, but since his partner graduated, he will be looking for another or may try singles. Whichever he plays, Yu has a goal in mind: consistency.

“I’m feeling more comfortable playing this year, and I’ve played some games with (last year’s) seniors and at the sports mall to keep my skills up, but I’m being more focused and needing to be more consistent,” he said.

Yu is also a bit uncertain of what his squad will look like as tryouts aren’t held until late February. He’s also unsure which schools will be the most competitive as the team is now in 5A region 7 that stretches from Tooele to Vernal, and he has yet to meet his new coach, Tui Satuala.

“I heard he’s really nice and teaches at the school,” Yu said about the social studies teacher who is in his second-year teaching at Hillcrest. “The thing I really like about tennis is the people. Even though everyone is competing, they’re super nice. I’m going to miss our former coach and all the traditions we had in place, like going to Buffalo Wild Wings after winning a big match.” 

Hillcrest’s longtime coach, Robert James, stepped down with the announcement of the new region, stating he was unable to travel on the bus those distances because of health reasons.  Those bus rides to away matches will extend from an hour west and an hour south to more than three hours east.

Yu said he will use that time to “sleep and do homework.”

James gave Satuala a book of drills and James’ former assistants, Creighton and Chris Chun, who coached the girls team this fall, gave the new coach some pointers.

“I helped out a little during the girls’ season, and I was really grateful to have worked with the Chuns,” Satuala said. “They do such a fantastic job of developing players and teaching them how to hit and all those fundamental skills like serving and volleying. Then, building the game, the Xs and Os: how to win the point, how to win the match against your opponents; and implementing some mental games as well. I’m hoping they’ll help as they can with the boys this spring.”

Looking at the new region, Satuala foresees the strong teams being the same as in girls’ tennis.

“It’s going to be similar where Uintah was really strong and there might be some other good teams, but I don’t think it will be as tough of a region that we were in before with Brighton and all the east side schools,” he said. “Obviously, you never want to underestimate your opponents in the region, but I think it will be good for where our players are, and that we’ll have a lot of new players, so it will be a good competitive region for them.”

The Huskies will open their season against Taylorsville in early March. 

Satuala is making arrangements to find “home” courts while Hillcrest High has yet to finish the final phase of construction—the playing fields and courts. He looks forward to the days when the new courts will be in place to benefit current students and those coming into the program he hopes to develop over the next few years.

Before the season begins, Satuala wants his team to practice serves and fundamentals in the school’s field house and hit the weight room “just to work on some of the movements and muscles we’ll be using in tennis.”  

Some of those skills are the same ones Satuala learned from his dad. 

“My parents are Tongan and tennis is actually a big part of the culture there. A lot of church meeting houses have a tennis court outside, so it became a social and cultural thing. I remember going to play with my dad and all his Tongan friends. He taught us how to play, but I wasn’t an amazing player. I played junior varsity and a little bit of varsity in high school,” he said.

Although Satuala played tennis, it was football that was his love. He went on to play football at Weber State University and then, grew into coaching. He has coached football alongside Hillcrest’s head coach Brock Bryant and also helped at Bountiful High as well as boys’ tennis at Cyprus High.

“I love coaching. I just love seeing the growth that athletes make over a season and while you’re working with them, it’s just fun to see them build that confidence in themselves and to see that growth happen as they put in practice,” Satuala said. “Coaching is mentoring and building relationships; I love giving kids the knowledge and experience I have and helping them improve.”