Mark Koons is pretty sure that if he sat down and thought about it, he could name the starters for every one of his Dallastown boys' tennis teams.
That's pretty good recall, considering Koons is in his 23rd season as the Wildcats' head coach.
"Every one of those guys made a positive impact on almost everything, not just tennis," Koons said. "Just the bonds you develop with players and their families is something that sticks out when I think of my career. When I first started, we didn't have a booster club, now our banquet is one of the highlights of our season."
Koons is just one victory away from 300 career victories. His teams have lost just 58 times.
The social studies teacher, who's always deflected credit for the program's success to his players, handled the approaching milestone in the same modest way.
"All that means is I'm getting old. I'm 44," he said.
Koons was just 21 when he was named the Wildcats' head coach.
"Dr. George Jones (the Dallastown High School principal at the time) kind went out on a limb and hired me as a young coach," the Red Lion High School and Shippensburg University graduate said. "I still get notes from him. I didn't have a full-time teaching job at the time. I substituted for 21/2 years."
Along with boys' tennis, Koons also coached girls' tennis and basketball (boys' junior high and high school junior varsity).
"Jay Rexroth (the former head Dallastown boys' basketball coach), I learned a lot from him by watching how he conducted practice," Koons said.
Koons also counts his high school tennis coach, Jay Vasellas, and Wisehaven Tennis Club owner/director of tennis Jim Overbaugh among his mentors.
"Jay Vasellas taught me that tennis is just as important as other sports, which means scouting your opponent and having a game plan for your matches," Koons said. "Jim Overbaugh, I tried to emulate him when it came to the teaching style and coaching style of the game."
Koons' teams have won 11 York-Adams titles, including six in a row from 2002-07, four District 3 team crowns and one state title. Before winning the state championship in 2004, the Wildcats finished second in 2003.
"In '03, we kind of shocked everyone with that run we made our first year in states," Koons said. "The next year, it was almost a relief that we won it. The expectations were much larger than the year before."
Dallastown's 2012 team didn't capture a championship, but Koons considers the season one of his most enjoyable ones.
"That team exceeded expectations, and we didn't even win our league," he said. "We came back to beat South Western in districts after losing to them in the regular season. I had a very tight knit group of kids who loved to compete."
Koons has always had a passion for the game, too -- at Red Lion, Shippensburg and as an adult in the York City-County and other tournaments.
A York-Adams and District 3 doubles champion with his brother, Scott, at Red Lion, Koons has been the face of Dallastown tennis for more than two decades. He isn't certain how many more years he'll coach the Wildcats.
"I have three boys, 12, 10 and the third one will soon turn 6," he said. "Everyone asks me if I'm going to stick around for them. I'm just going to take it year by year."
Dick VanOlinda covers high school sports for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org or at 505-5407.