Jeffrey Dayton has already started to perfect his sales pitch.
In an attempt to broaden the success rate for the St. James boys tennis team, the three-year varsity standout has tried to convince friends and other players around the school to try out. He knows numbers will help make a difference for a Sharks squad that has had limited success in its short time on the courts.
Consider Dayton’s individual progress a step in the right direction.
The Toast of the Coast Boys Tennis Player of the Year finished the regular season 13-0 in individual matches, winning all but nine of the 168 total games he played. The freshman won the Region VII-AAA individual title and then went 4-2 in the individual state tournament.
“Whenever there’s a little success, it helps me tell others about the tennis team,” Dayton said. “Two of my friends played this year. That will help them tell their friends.”
With three more years of varsity tennis still ahead of him, Dayton will have plenty more opportunities to add to his already impressive resume. Recruiting others, though, is near the top of his list.
While he has qualified for the state individual tournament three times – he was forced to withdraw last season following an injury – St. James has yet to earn a top-two region finish necessary to qualify for the statewide Class AAA tournament during its 10-year history. During that span, region foes Socastee and Myrtle Beach have won state titles.
That’s something Dayton aspires to help happen at St. James. And it’s something his coach, Lee Cannon, understands can receive a kick-start from the young star. Cannon said at least one of St. James’ players this year joined the team after some urging from Dayton.
“I attribute a lot of that kid playing to Jeffrey,” Cannon said. “He meets a lot of people and he sells the sport. And then he’ll play with them. He’s not going to beat them and make them feel bad and then they leave and never come back again.
“On our team, there’s a coach, and then there’s an assistant coach, and then there’s Jeffrey.”
Of course, one of the reasons he’s had success as a recruiter stems from his success on the court. To that, Dayton credits his style of play. He said instead of playing reactionary tennis – waiting to see what an opponent will do and immediately go on the defensive – he’s learned to attack.
It’s led him to some lopsided scores against some very good players from around the state. He’s recognized that many older players are trying to make a switch to the aggressive style after years of the other approach, which is all Dayton has known.
It’s helped bring about some success. It’s also helped one of his primary goals.
“Whenever there’s one person who stands out and takes leadership of the team, that’s when more people are going to want to come,” Dayton said. “That’s when more people try out. That’s where our team will grow. It will take time.”
Considering his high school career is only at its midway point, Dayton has three more years to sell his product.
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.