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Coots Family All In on Alabama Team

Story and photos by Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

Ashley Coots

Ashley Coots serves in Saturday match.

Four family members on one team is not enough for mother Kim Coots. Next year, her youngest is scheduled to join his parents and two sisters on the Alabama 18 & Over 9.0 team.

“Yes, Connor is on board to play with us next year. He’s a senior in high school and still looking at colleges where he can play,” Kim explained.

He has big shoes to fill as both of his older sisters played in college: Kelsey was a star for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Ashley, ranked No. 19 in USTA Alabama while in high school, played junior college tennis.

“Kelsey has been the dominant player in the family,” Kim said. During her 2013-16 college career, Kelsey was named to four All-Southern Conference teams and the Dean’s List in her senior year. She was selected to represent Alabama in the Southern Ozaki Junior Cup for six years and to represent USTA Southern in World Team Tennis at age 14.

And the youngest Coots family member is no less accomplished. Connor won the Alabama Closed 16s Championships in singles and doubles last year.

Kelsey Coots and Jeremy Coots

Kelsey Coots and Jeffrey Coots battle.

As awe-inspiring as it’s been, Kim admitted the family’s journey to tennis achievement didn’t start down the usual path. Most families that produce three junior stars have a longer timeline of tennis performance, with parents who played in college or have been teaching tennis for years.

Jeffrey and Kim, however, came to the sport as adults, with the family patriarch leading the way. Jeffrey “was a self-taught player and played as a 3.5 in 1990,” Kim said. “He got me playing. Both of us were big softball players and tennis came easy for us.”

With practice and play, Jeffrey’s skills rose, moving him to 4.0.

Kim had a more extensive rise. “I was self-rated at 2.5. The next season I was bumped up to 3.5. The next season I was bumped from 3.5 to 4.5,” she said. “I kept skipping levels. Now, I’m a 5.0.” Attributing her rise to skills that helped her play softball in high school, Kim now shares her tennis knowledge as an assistant coach at Huntsville High School, where her children played.

“I taught tennis to all of my kids at the age of 4,” she said. “Now, most vacations revolve around tennis.”

“I think they have pushed each other. Connor has the most talent of any of us but he doesn’t always want to use it,” Kim said. “Everyone comments on his forehand. He’s got the biggest forehand.”

This year, the Coots team finished third in the championship, with Kelsey and Jeffrey teaming up in most matches and Kim and Ashley often switching spots.

Next year, adding a fifth Coots just might push the Alabama team even higher.