Winning a state title and being named the Montana High School Association 2018 Class B Tennis Coach of the Year weren’t on first-year Choteau High School coach Carla May’s radar when the season started.
“I still get shivers when I recall the reaction of the players when they won the state title,” May said when interviewed for her coaching award. “That memory will stick with me for a long time. It really was an unbelievable ending to the season.”
The coach of the year was the cherry on top of the season for May. “Receiving the coaching acknowledgment is very humbling,” May said. “But I realize it wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the players, the help from assistant coach Austin Schilling and the tremendous support of volunteers and fellow coaches.”
“At the end of the season, I was just so excited for the kids and proud of how far they came from the beginning of the year,” May said. “I love kids, I love being around kids and I love helping them.”
Coaching tennis was new to May who has experience coaching four other sports. May is the assistant high school volleyball coach and seventh-grade volleyball team coach, positions she has held for 17 and 13 years respectively. She previously was an assistant girls basketball coach for two years, a junior high track coach for six years and a girls softball coach for many years.
“I like challenges, learning and growing with new things,” May said. “When the coaching position for tennis opened, it presented the opportunity to do just that.”
“Tennis wasn’t a sport I played in high school, but taking the position I was confident there were plenty of resources around to help me learn.”
On the coaching side, May said she has gleaned a vast amount of knowledge from excellent coaches serving as an assistant, chiefly under Ann Funk. Knowledge that served her well included: to build relationships with fellow coaches, never shut the door on volunteers, thank the host of matches and tournaments for their hard work, be prepared for each practice, see the potential in the player and keep the lines of communication open.
To gain knowledge of the game, May took to the Internet watching YouTube videos, reading articles and searching for good drills and teaching tools. Maybe even more important this year, May said, was the help she received from the players, assistant coach Schilling, Choteau tennis enthusiasts Bob and Lisa Scott and David and Tami Hirschfeld, longtime coach and player Colleen Green from Simms and fellow coach Kaylee Baeth from Fairfield. “They, and many others, were so helpful when I had questions or offered advice when they saw I needed help,” May said.
A tip she quickly learned this season was to bring a wide range of gear for all weather conditions from winter to summer, as those temperature fluctuations sometimes happen in a span of one afternoon.
“It really was an exciting year,” May said. Seven participated on the Choteau team, five girls and two boys. The girls team took first place at divisional advancing Michaela Gunderson to state where she finished second, and Christine Funk who took fourth, and the two took the state title. Daniel Asselstine placed at the divisional tournament and had a great showing at state.
“It was a fun group of kids,” May said. With all the team returning next year and the success they had, I see a bright future for the program. I look forward to seeing them on the courts this summer.”
A Great Falls native who has lived in Choteau since 1990, May worked for 25 years at Teton Medical Center and for the past two and half years has worked from home for Mountain, LDT, as an ISP design engineer for the Northwest Region. She also is a substitute teacher for the Choteau School District.
She and her husband John have three children, Nicole, Kyle and Kelci. All three are CHS graduates and live and work in Great Falls. They are also the proud grandparents of two granddaughters, Rylee and Ella.