Mary Elliot, who has been alongside coach Randy Draper for all 12 years of the girls tennis program at Grain Valley and the past four years of the boys program, is the new head boys tennis coach at the high school.

Mary Elliot, who has been alongside coach Randy Draper for all 12 years of the girls tennis program at Grain Valley and the past four years of the boys program, is the new head boys tennis coach at the high school.

Draper started the girls program 12 years ago with Elliot as an unpaid assistant. They then began the boys program when Draper’s son Michael was a freshman.

Michael, who is the Eagles No. 1 singles player, will play tennis next year at Johnson County Community College, and his father wants to be able to watch him play at that level.

“I’m keeping the girls job because they play in the fall,” Randy Draper said. “But I couldn’t make that commitment to the boys because they play in the spring, and that’s when Michael will be playing in college.”

Draper said Elliot will be a good replacement for him.

“Mary is just the perfect fit for the boys program,” he said. “The players know her, and she knows the players. And we only have one junior on the team this year and a lot of sophomores. So she will have a young team to work with next year, and I know she’ll do a great job.”

Elliot has been playing tennis for many years and still plays twice a week.

“It’s a sport you can play and enjoy your entire life,” said Elliot, an elementary school teacher. “The first year Randy had the girls team, I would come up and help as an assistant.”

Elliot’s efforts that first year went unpaid, but not unappreciated.

“I talked to former Grain Valley superintendent Dave Hackett, and he said he didn’t have any money that first year for an assistant, but he would see what he could do the following year.

“That just seems like such a long time ago. I always enjoyed working with Randy, and I’m so happy he’s going to keep working with the girls.”

Elliot will be one of many area females who will coach a boys team, and she doesn’t foresee any problems.

“I have a lot of respect for the boys on the team, and I believe they respect me,” she said. “They are a great group of kids. We’ve been with a lot of them for four years, and I even had some of them in my class.

“It’s been so much fun to watch this team grow and develop into one of the better tennis teams in the area.”

During the interview, the Eagles defeated Odessa 9-0. They also have 9-0 wins over much larger schools like Blue Springs, which clinched a share of the Big Six title Tuesday, and Lee’s Summit North.

“Coach Draper has done a great job developing the team, and you can tell the boys love the sport,” she said. “He tells me how he drives by the courts at night and the lights are on and all the kids (on the team) are out there playing.”