Doug Ross’ coaching career unfurled well before he strung nets across Geneva badminton poles for the first time in two decades.
Ross guided the boys soccer, girls track and boys tennis programs in his first several years at Geneva. In 2009, he brought badminton back, and three seasons later, it’s thriving.
The Vikings won the Upstate Eight Conference tournament this past weekend and recently captured their second straight UEC River regular-season crown. Things could be even brighter next spring, but Ross will only be a bystander.
A veteran Tri-Cities sports fixture who played at Batavia before pioneering the boys soccer and boys tennis programs at Neuqua Valley, Ross has elected to temporarily step down from coaching to spend more time with his family.
He plans to remain on Geneva’s physical education staff and guaranteed he would return to coaching “in some capacity” within the next few years. For now, though, Ross would prefer to watch his three children compete and navigate middle school while relieving his wife in the carpool rotation once in awhile.
“Being able to finish up with a fourth sport and a sport that I was able to start from scratch and see the development, that’s just really rewarding for me,” Ross said. “It really kind of caps my accomplishments at Geneva, and I’m able to leave on a high note and know that I feel very satisfied that I was able to create another opportunity.”
Ross revived badminton at Geneva after about 20 years away, and purposefully scheduled tougher competition in 2009 so players could witness winning cultures. Apparently, the osmosis worked.
Teaming with Nicole Schneider, fourth-year varsity member Nora Burkhardt helped the Vikings to a UEC title at No. 1 doubles this past weekend, while the second tandem of Jessica Wicinski and Lauren Blayney placed second.
Second singles player Melanie Burkhardt was the team’s other place winner, taking third. Geneva scored 59 team points to top runner-up Neuqua Valley (45), and is hoping to continue its momentum at today’s Willowbrook Sectional.
Three seasons ago, eight of the Vikings’ 12-player roster played tennis the previous fall. This spring, Geneva is rolling with its share of volleyball players, not to mention basketball standout Rachel Hinchman, a first-time participant who has taken quickly to the sport.
While Ross says having Hinchman in the mix has helped the Vikings accelerate their road to winning, he also knows the program took its biggest strides at this time last year.
A UEC River title spawned sectional success and state qualifiers to set the stage for 2012.
“It validated why I did what I did in starting the whole program four years back,” Ross said.
A 1987 Batavia graduate, Ross was a midfielder for Kevin O’Connor’s inaugural Bulldogs boys soccer team, played basketball under O’Connor and Jim Roberts and ran track for Mike DiDomenico.
While DiDomenico still assists the Batavia track program, Roberts recently announced he was stepping away from his basketball post after 27 seasons. Several months earlier, O’Connor confirmed his retirement from teaching and pacing the Marmion soccer sideline.
Ross is set to join his mentors for the moment, but he’s clear about reiterating his desire to return.
“I don’t foresee me being away from coaching for too long,” Ross said. “Yeah, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss it. But I have some other things I would like to be part of first.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or email@example.com.