JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Friends gathered at the Marble Falls High School tennis courts to honor and dedicate the complex to the couple credited with turning the program into a powerhouse in the 1980s.
The venue is now called the Charlie & Nancy Herrington Tennis Center. And fans can sit on a granite bench inside the center thanks to Mark Crouse of Longhorn Granite and his former doubles partner Stacy Frasier, two former Herrington students.“I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me,” Nancy Herrington said. “He would not have been comfortable with all of this attention. He would have been really proud.”
Charlie Herrington, who was a tennis coach at the high school, was a longtime tennis pro at Hidden Falls Country Club until his death March 26. The gathered crowd remembered him a day after what would have been his 70th birthday.
Charlie Herrington gave lessons to many long-time residents, who also sent their children to him to learn the sport.
It’s why after big wins as Mustangs, many of those teenagers had celebratory dinners with their parents then dropped in to see the Herringtons.
“He was more than a coach,” his wife said of those visits. “We were family. For a lot of people, he was a father figure. They were winning for Charlie more than they were winning for themselves.”
Long-time friend Jim Hawkins recalled wanting to learn to play the sport and being told to seek out Herrington. Soon after meeting him, Herrington signed Hawkins up to play in a tournament and gave him lessons. Hawkins has been playing in tournaments for 30 years.
One day Hawkins decided to ask his coach what he thought of his game. Herrington, who was known for being honest with his students but still encouraging asked, “Do you have any interest in golf?”
“There’s still hope for you,” he added. “When you’re on serve and volley, you take too long to get to the net. Hawkins, your serve is so slow, you could walk to the net, have a conversation with your partner, and still have plenty of time. The game of doubles is won at the net, and don’t you forget it.”
Over time Hawkins began playing with or against friends. And he noticed part of their game improved. So he’d ask them about their serves and backhands. Their replies? Charlie taught me, they said.
“Charlie left his tennis stamp all over the Hill Country,” he said. “These courts have become hallowed ground for Charlie Herrington. He will be looking down and saying ‘Hit it deep and make them weep.'”
Julie Stice Shaffer and her tennis partner, Kathy Schreiber, won three state championships while playing for the Mustangs.
Shaffer recalled being paired up with Schreiber in the seventh grade thanks to Marble Falls Junior High tennis coach Nancy Herrington.
One of the duo’s favorite stories was when they lost the regional championship to a team from Grand Saline as juniors. They had spent their whole Spring Break on the lake.
While losing was bad, their conduct during the match was worse, Shaffer said. So the Herringtons left once the match concluded without speaking to either player.
But when they arrived home, they found baby pacifiers in their mailboxes, gifts from Charlie Herrington.
After they won the state championship, Herrington sent them each a note, telling them Grand Saline would spend the summer getting ready for the Marble Falls duo.
He ended the note: P.S. Remember, there are no ski boats in Grand Saline.
“What Charlie didn’t realize was that I wasn’t worried,” Shaffer said with a smile. “I wasn’t worried because I knew there was also no Charlie Herrington in Grand Saline either.”