By Ryan Palencer
— One thing has been constant for Avon tennis over the past 33 years — coach Stan Malless.
However, that will not be the case next season as the long-tenured Malless retired following his last girls match in May.
Filling those large shoes will be Robert Mize, who was named the new boys’ tennis coach at Avon at the June 5 board meeting.
“It is an honor (to take over for Malless), obviously,” Mize said. “It’s not every day that you get to take over for a Hall of Fame coach.”
In addition, Mize hopes to continue the momentum that Malless has created and take it into the upcoming years. Like Malless, Mize runs his own summer tennis camp and encourages his participants to also join Malless’ camp.
“I think that we’re in a good position now,” he said. “We have a lot of kids, not only in our Mize tennis camp, but Stan still has his camp running. We have 46 kids this summer (in the Mize camp). You can’t play too much tennis.”
Mize is also encouraged with the expanding popularity of tennis in the area and that should lead to more and more quality players coming through the program.
“Tennis is really growing and becoming popular again, especially in the Hendricks County area,” Mize said. “I expect there to be good tennis around here for the foreseeable future.”
Though the position is a new role for Mize, the Avon program is not. He has held down a head coaching position at Avon Middle School South for the past several seasons.
Mize said his squad went undefeated this year and has only lost four matches in the past two years.
Prior to this, Mize, who is originally from Kokomo, graduated from IUPUI where he lettered on the men’s tennis team from 1988 to 1991. During that time, Mize overcame some obstacles.
“I had surgery on my wrist the summer of my senior season,” Mize said. “I had a couple of scholarships lined up. With off programs, if it’s not a football or basketball program, they’ll find the next available kid. I had to wait until my sophomore year to actually play.”
After three surgeries, he worked to get his game back and still plays today.
Mize fell into coaching when a couple of individuals encouraged him to mentor younger players who were their children.
Along with being the president of the Avon Community Tennis Association, Mize also conducted the first ever USTA-sanctioned tournament at Avon High School in the fall of 2012.
“(The USTA event) was the first week in October and the weather could not have been worse,” Mize said. “We had a great showing and a lot of parents volunteered for it. We know that we can support tennis in Avon.
“Stan has been a great facilitator, helping me through the transition. He has been behind me 100 percent. I have to give a lot of credit to him as well.”
For Mize, he looks forward the growth of tennis in the area and Avon moving into the elite category around the state.
“Everybody shoots to match the Carmels,” Mize said. “We really shoot this year to match the Carmels and I think in a few years, you are really going to see a really high level of tennis in Avon. I honestly believe that.”