MELISSA – Brad Crawford’s first official duty as head tennis coach at Melissa High School was a hot one: Four days of tennis camp in mid-July, when Ol’ Man Sun was finally getting his legs and delivering sustained, punishing heat. But with plenty of water and sunscreen on hand, Crawford, his campers and coaching assistants Cambria Dotson and Manuel Avila not only survived but got in some fine training.

About 35 campers took part in the camp, July 17-20, with three sessions held each day based on age.

“I think camp went exceptionally well,” said Avila, head coach of Melissa girls varsity soccer. “It was my first experience with tennis camp. The new coach (Crawford) came in very organized, very thorough in what he wanted to do in his plan.”

And the heat?

“Again, he was very organized in making sure the kids had breaks,” Avila said. “… About every 30 minutes the kids were taking a solid 5- to 10-minute break.”

“Yes, it was toasty,” Dotson said. “But I thought tennis camp ran so smooth. Coach Crawford has this figured out. His techniques and the way he handles the kids are exactly what this program needs.”

Dotson is an assistant coach for Melissa varsity volleyball.

Crawford recently returned to coaching after a brief retirement following 19 years of service to Van High School in Van Zandt County.

“I’m just so excited to be back, because when I left I was kind of burned out,” he said before Monday’s first session. “I’ve been out for three years now. And just the chance to get back in and be back for a while, working with great people … it’s a great place to be.”

Crawford’s wife Debbie was on hand that first day to assist with registration.

“I love to see kids that are just starting out getting better,” Crawford said. “When you do camp, there’s a concentrated time that you get to spend with them. And you can really see progress from Monday to Thursday. The seed is planted and it just depends on the ones that really take hold of it and love it and will do great things.”

“With the beginners, the elementary kids, we just try to make sure that they’re doing the basic things: Get your racket back, move your feet,” Crawford said. “If they’re doing those things, then the hitting of the ball is the easy part. … The junior high kids, it’s a whole lot the same thing because usually the junior high kids are in the same boat as the elementary kids with not having much experience. The high school kids, it’s much more about development and conditioning, and really trying to get them in a pattern, kind of grooving their swing so that their muscle memory takes over. They’re able to really get to the point that they want to be.”

Crawford has loads of experience with these camps.

“I would say the big change has been that when I started doing this 20 years ago there was a whole lot less going on. And it seemed like you had kids that were there because they didn’t have a lot of options. Now, a kid that’s coming to tennis camp is coming because the really want to be there. There are so many options out there.”