A few minutes before 11 o’clock Tuesday morning, Mike and Matt Lynch, father and son, pulled into a parking space at Canon-McMillan High School.
No, Matt Lynch didn’t miss the first couple hours of school because of a doctor’s appointment.
He wasn’t even sick, really.
He was simply heading to tennis practice with his dad, who’s also his coach.
Matt Lynch is a home-schooled junior who lives in Eighty Four and competes for Bentworth, though the Bearcats don’t have a team.
He plays mostly United States Tennis Association tournaments but last year won the WPIAL Section 1-AA singles title, defeating Greensburg Salem’s Parker Jorgensen 6-1, 7-5 at Mt. Pleasant High School.
The practice arrangement might sound unique – and a bit odd, given the obvious challenges of having a 45-year-old as your primary practice partner, a scenario Mike Lynch openly jokes about – but the Lynch family wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a good way to spend time with him,” Matt Lynch said of practicing with his dad. “He’s a great coach. He knows what he’s doing.”
Mike Lynch never played high school or college tennis but did play some while in the Navy. He works in sales and says he and his second-oldest son – one of six kids for Mike and his wife, Dorrie – get out and practice together four days a week, rotating between Canon-McMillan, Washington & Jefferson College, Peters Township and Ringgold.
Whichever, really, is open.
“Sometimes we’ve come to this court, have seen high school kids on here and have gone over to W&J,” Mike Lynch explained during a recent practice at Canon-Mac. “That’s a pain, but we play a lot up here. These are good courts.”
During the sessions, which last between 60 and 90 minutes, Mike and Matt Lynch will work mostly on strategy, placement and different strokes. Ultimate exertion is reserved for weekly hitting sessions with Canonsburg native Tony Constantino, a Bishop Canevin graduate who now plays college tennis at Saint Vincent.
“That’s where the old man steps out and lets the younger ones beat each other up,” Mike Lynch joked.
The father-son sessions are light but fast-paced: Mike drilling Matt on forehand and backhand shots, urging him to think ahead before his returns, pleading with him to play a more overpowering shot closer to the net, complimenting where appropriate.
“He does a great job coaching me,” Matt Lynch said. “If he sees something, he’ll let me know.”
Mike has been pushing footwork lately. And like many coaches, he has been trying to get his player to settle down a bit on the court.
“He’s fast. That’s one of his best attributes. He’s quick to the ball,” Mike Lynch said. “The athletic part, he’s got that. He’s been playing long enough that he knows what to do. It’s just getting yourself into the right mind frame.”
Because of this unique arrangement, opposing players aren’t able to see Matt Lynch during the regular season and scout his game.
Same time, he’s not able to see them. It’s a tradeoff that should make Monday and Tuesday’s tournament at Mt. Pleasant rather interesting.
“They don’t know anything about me, but I don’t know anything about them,” Matt Lynch said. “They could use that to their advantage, same as I could use that to my advantage. I don’t mind it.”
Just like Matt Lynch wouldn’t mind winning another section title. Or reaching the finals of the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament after his surprising run to the semifinals last year, one that ended with a 6-1, 6-3 loss to eventual champion Colin Kaye of Sewickley Academy.
“I’m sure people know who I am now,” Lynch said. “I’m pretty sure there are some people who are aiming to beat me.”