Escame teaches the game of tennis and life

Steve Escame has seen most everything happen on a high school tennis court. He’s seen great players and he’s seen horrible ones. He’s also seen millions of forehands and backhands.

That’s just what happens when you coach tennis for 34 years with the last 11 being at Decatur High School. But today marks the final time Escame will fill out a lineup for a regular season South Puget Sound League South Division boys tennis match. The longtime coach will be stepping away from high school tennis after the Class 4A State Tennis Tournament, which will be contested in the spring.

And his talented, senior-laded Gator team will send out Escame on top. Decatur clinched the SPSL South Division championship last week with a 4-1 win over the Thomas Jefferson Raiders — who just happened to be the two-time defending league champs.

While Escame will tell you that going out with a championship is a nice bonus, the numerous titles his teams’ have won during his three-decade tenure aren’t at the top of his memory list.

“What I will truly remember about this season is the kids and the fun we’ve had,” he said. “I have a million stories, and they are all about kids, not championships. How lucky can a guy get?”

Escame has been “lucky” enough to rack up over 500 tennis victories during his career and coached several state champions. He has also been in charge of some awful teams, he admits. But he remembers all of them.

“I can still give you the names of the eight kids who were in the starting lineup of the very first tennis match I coached — win number one,” he said. “I can still give you the names of the eight starters who played varsity matches for the very first championship team I was fortunate to have coached in 1974. I can give you the names of the 90-plus kids who I have been lucky enough to coach who have gone on and played college tennis at some level.”

And Escame’s leadership doesn’t just stop on the tennis court. He has also had short stints at the helm of a girls’ volleyball team that finished the season 0-18 and coached a speech-debate team to the state invitational championship back in 1976.

But tennis is where Escame has done a bulk of his teaching and to truly illustrate how strongly he feels about molding life lessons from the game of tennis, all you have to do is look at the Decatur boys tennis season a year ago. That’s when Escame’s coaching philosophy was on full display.

It came during a match with the Puyallup Vikings. In the midst of one of the doubles’ matches, one of the Decatur players had some “behavior” issues. Escame immediately defaulted the match, which ultimately gave Puyallup a 3-2 team victory and cost the Gators the SPSL South championship. With the win, Decatur would have tied TJ for the title.

“The team was devastated at first, but they understand fully my philosophy of winning with honor, integrity and dignity,” he said.

Remember, he’s seen it all on the tennis court.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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