For 50 years, Clem Stancik has been coaching tennis for the love of it.
Stancik, who first coached the boys varsity team at Brentwood High School in 1963, does it for the students whom, every year, he shapes from kids who have never set foot on a court into varsity athletes.
"That's what I love about these kids: They don't give up on me," Stancik, 75, said. "I just love the sport."
Now, five decades after his first senior class of athletes graduated high school, a handful are returning: This weekend, they are expected to come from across the country for a weekend of celebration -- and a throw-down match against some of the team's current members, at Brentwood High School's tennis courts at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"They wanna beat the heck out of the old-timers," Stancik said of his teenage athletes.
As a coach, Stancik loves hard workers -- he builds his team with smart and dedicated kids who want to be there. He relishes the occasional three-sport super-athlete who plays tennis in the spring to stay in shape, but has made a career of coaching kids from the ground up.
"Clem is remarkable," said JV coach Gary Kittredge. "His skill lies in the fact that he takes these kids from nothing -- a lump of clay -- and molds them into a tennis player in two months. He performs miracles every spring."
Stancik taught at Brentwood High School for 34 years. After he retired in 1995, he kept coaching. League championships are some of the highlights of his career, Stancik said, but mostly, "It's just working with kids and seeing them improve."
Lester Mandelker, who lives in Florida and organized the reunion, said both athlete and coach learned from each other that first year. As a senior in 1963, Mandelker went undefeated, he said. "We just gelled together," he said. "How many people stay with anything for 50 years?"
Stancik says high school sports have changed a lot since he started coaching, largely because of budgetary constraints. Brentwood's tennis courts have been there as long as he has. The chain-link fence around the courts is rusted and sagging, and students no longer get free, new equipment from the school.
"We get very little money for uniforms," Stancik said.
But he hates fundraising. All of the effort, he says, is left on the court. "It's a great love."
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