FORT MILL — After nearly 40 years on the sidelines coaching tennis, Fort Mill High boys’ tennis coach Willie Ware has been elected to the York County Sports Hall of Fame.
Ware, who retired from teaching in 2010 but remained as tennis coach, has already started spring practice for the upcoming season. He took over the program in 1975 and has been coaching at Fort Mill ever since, amassing 15 Region titles and a school record five state championships.
The Yellow Jackets were a tennis dynasty in the 1990s as Ware’s teams won S.C. championships from1995 through 1999.
This was Ware’s second time on the ballot. He was nominated by longtime friend and tennis advocate Sue Jones.
“I pushed for this for years,” Jones said. “It was an honor that was right up his alley. He deserved it.”
An appreciative Ware said he was thankful.
“She had been real supportive of trying to get my name nominated,” Ware said. “She worked real hard on it.”
Despite being retired from the classroom, Ware, who has been named state Tennis Coach of the Year four times, said he couldn’t walk away from coaching.
“The kids help to keep me revitalized and focused,” he said. “I like the camaraderie of the coaches. It is almost a brotherhood.”
Ware said his players, particularly the seniors, have gotten into the habit of asking him if he will be back the next year. He said he finds it hard to say no.
“Tennis has been that element for me,” he said. “It gives me a chance to hit with the kids. It has helped me to stay physically fit. When my health gets to the point where I can’t do it anymore, I will leave. But it helps me for now. Each year it is refreshing and I look forward to it.”
Ware will be inducted with the York County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2013 on May 14 at the Events at Manchester building located on Cinema Drive in Rock Hill.