High School Sports

Bellingham tennis coach reaches win No. 800

Bellingham tennis coach Steve Chronister watches his players take on Anacortes on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Bellingham High School in Bellingham.
Bellingham tennis coach Steve Chronister watches his players take on Anacortes on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Bellingham High School in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

Thirty-six years, 60 total tennis seasons (38 boys’ and 22 girls’) and 800 dual meet wins.

Bellingham coach Steve Chronister has seemingly done it all when it comes to Whatcom County tennis.

“Well, I’ve had a lot of good players and I’m really old,” Chronister, 59, joked of his success in a phone interview.

I like to do it and it seemed like I was good at it. I feel like I’m still learning and still getting better.

Steve Chronister, Bellingham tennis coach

But Chronister’s 800th win wasn’t purely a matter of quantity. His teams — he’s coached both Bellingham and Sehome — have earned wins with surprisingly high efficiency. When Chronister got his 800th win, he only had 109 losses — an 88 percent win rate.

Chronister has three doubles state champions on his resume and five second-place finishes between doubles and singles.

So what makes Chronister such a successful coach?

“I think (teaching) is my gift. Certain things are easier to you than other things. Teaching and coaching were easy for me to learn,” Chronister said. “I like to do it and it seemed like I was good at it. I feel like I’m still learning and still getting better.”

Before coaching, Chronister was a star high school and college tennis player. He went to state three times in high school before playing well enough in college at Western Washington University to go into the school’s Hall of Fame and earn WWU men’s tennis Athlete of the Century in 1999.

He went on to coach tennis at Sehome for 22 years before coaching for the Red Raiders the past 14 years.

It’s exciting and fun to go to work everyday. It’s fun working with kids, fun helping them get better. I’ll continue until they get sick of me.

Steve Chronister, Bellingham tennis coach

“I’m a big believer and fan of high school athletics and college athletics,” Chronister said. “I’m a big supporter of all things sports. It’s a great thing for kids to do. ... There’s a value that athletic competition can have if you coach it right ... that’s hard to learn somewhere else.”

Certainly times have changed in the past 36 years — for one, gas is no longer 86 cents and tennis rackets are no longer wooden. But Chronister believes people and teenagers have relatively stayed the same.

“Equipment has changed quite a bit, but I think as far as tennis, it’s not too much different,” Chronister said. “It’s very much the same to me. People are not that much different — what they want, what they need, those things are still true I think.”

As the longtime coach nears 60 years old — he’ll hit the milestone in February — he has no plans yet to retire.

“It’s exciting and fun to go to work everyday. It’s fun working with kids, fun helping them get better,” Chronister said. “I’ll continue until they get sick of me.”

Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com.

When Steve Chronister first started coaching in 1979...

▪ A gallon of gas cost 86 cents

▪ ESPN had just launched on cable

▪ Rocky II was newly released

▪ Jimmy Carter was president of the U.S.

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