- Created: Tuesday, 12 January 2021 05:45
By RICK PETERSON
The sun was shining and the temperature flirting with the 60-degree mark Monday afternoon as spring officially flung for high school spring sports after the 2020 season was wiped out by COVID-19.
And nobody was any more excited to be back at work than city tennis legend Kevin Hedberg of Washburn Rural, now in his 42nd season as a high school coach.
"I think all of us are just really thrilled to be out here and doing something,'' said Hedberg, who turned 69 last week. "And it's a beautiful day. We don't have days like this to start with very much and the week looks really good.''
Hedberg's legacy in high school tennis is already etched in stone, with Hedberg coaching the Junior Blues to four Class 6A boys state team championships and one girls title while also producing a string of Centennial League and city team champions as well as individual state champs.
But while Hedberg could have retired from teaching and coaching years ago, he's never considered that as a serious option, not even in the age of the coronavirus.
"I'm with a good group of teachers and what we were going through was kind of a shared experience,'' Hedberg said. "We were in it together and I really would have felt like I was kind of walking away from a challenge to quit last year.
"I did really miss the boys season because I had a couple of senior boys that I was really fond of and they had waited to get the opportunity to play and they lost it, and that was hard.''
With the start of a new season Monday, however, Hedberg was back in his happy place.
"It's still a lot of fun and it's a sport I love and I see it as a lifetime sport that everybody should at least get some exposure to,'' Hedberg said. "It still gets me going and I still really enjoy it.
"I'm not going to say that there aren't going to be some really long days because there are, and my energy's maybe not what it was 10 years ago, but I still think I have more than enough to be effective and that's what I'm looking for.''
After teams across the state were sidelined just about a week into preseason practice last spring, Hedberg said it's almost like starting over this season, but it's a challenge he embraces.
"It's everybody and everybody's going through the same thing,'' he said. "I feel like I have two freshman classes, but one is sophomores. I'm still learning names at this point and trying to see what we've got.
"It's going to be a different kind of year, but we'll get through it.''