“I’m a 'has been' now as a player,” admitted Rusty pointing to both knees scarred from surgeries. “In my prime, all I’ll say is that we’ll let Shan believe he’s the better player. His strokes are more polished than mine were back in the day. But truthfully, we take the same approach to playing the game. It’s never over ‘til it’s over, one point, one set, one match.”
The duo agrees on their reasons for choosing their favorite tennis player. “I like Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick because of their spirited approach to competition,” noted Shan.
“Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are my favorites because of their personality on the court as well as their championship skills,” referenced the coach.
The father and son’s ferocious spirit continues beyond the tennis courts. “I’m better throwing a football, and playing basketball,” boasted Shan.
“I own him in ping pong, bocce ball, checkers, chess and golf,” boasted the elder Bradley.
“Golf, I’ll give it to him, for now. Hey dad, want to take a test for me today at school?”
When asked if he could pass the exam, coach Bradley offered, “No comment.”
Playing number two singles for the Roughers this spring, Shan has been part of five tournament team championships and cherishes the experience dad brings to their strategy conversations to bolster the younger netter’s confident approach. “He knows what he’s talking about and I can trust what he says will work, on and off the court.”
Coaching your son and playing for your father presents unique opportunities for the Muskogee pair.
“The hardest thing is living up to the potential,” said Shan, noting the success dad had as a player in his prime. “But that makes it easier too because everybody knows me just because of the family name.”
“I know that people are going to say that I treat Shan different from the other players,” admits coach Bradley. “I try not to show him any favoritism. It’s something we talk about as a team with every member of the squad. Our players and parents know that my approach to coaching the team is that every match is equally as important as the other.”
“I watch Shan’s matches from a distance because I don’t want him to feel any added pressure,” confirmed the coach. “It’s a lot harder watching your son play than I expected. Watching each point, every stroke, I have to catch myself and not run out there to offer advice. I let my assistant, Jared Callahan, spread the word. I want him to win every time he swings the racket, but if I run out there I know it would upset his apple cart.”
“I know he’s always watching, even when he’s hunkered down behind the hedges,” winked Shan. “I don’t have to look too hard and of course, I can always hear him, even in his softest voice.”
The father son combination mirror one another in their preparation as the coach plays left handed with well-placed points
during practice tie-breaker sessions against the youthful and aggressive approach of the younger Bradley’s right hand.
“When we play against each other, it’s most definitely game on," said Rusty. “I’ll try to run him side to side to improve his game. But, dad gummit, his drop shots wear me out.”
“Playing against dad’s left hand has made me a much better player,” said Shan.
The coach of the Roughers hopes the early season success will continue for his son with an opportunity to repeat the state championship won by dad in 1976.
Of course I do,” remarked Rusty. “Every father or coach wants the best for the players. I think our whole team has a chance to do something special this season.”
Undeniably, the relationship is special for the Bradleys. And, for Muskogee tennis, it’s a chance for history to repeat itself. Bringing true the adage…like Father…like Son.
APRIL 2012 | VYPEOK.COM
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