Lois Woodard retires as BCHS tennis coach

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
All in the family

Lois Woodard celebrates with her former players during the recent BCHS tennis banquet at which she announced her retirement from coaching with the Beavers. M.P. Regan photo

Retired will prove a relative term for Lois Woodard.

The longtime head coach for the Beaverhead County High School tennis program, Woodard decided to step down this year after two decades in the position.

But that won’t keep the former Miss America contestant and nationally ranked player, now in her mid-70s, from remaining as active as your above-average 17 year old and continuing to tutor local players on how to improve their lives and their tennis games—maybe even to the point where one of them could one day effectively challenge her on the court.

“I think Lois could still beat me,” laughed Emily Paffhausen-Linder, who improved so much under Woodard’s tutelage during her time at Beaverhead County High School that she gained a spot with partner Sarah Downey in the finals of State A girls doubles tourney in her senior season in 2010.

“People in Dillon have been really lucky to have a coach like Lois who can play tennis and who understands the game so well. She puts the ball in the perfect place at the perfect time,” said Paffhausen-Linder, whose development on the court at BCHS earned her a scholarship to play tennis for Montana State University-Billings.

“She was always trying to teach us how strategy was a big part of tennis.”

In “retirement,” Woodard will continue to play tennis at a higher level and instruct players of all ages and abilities on how to take their games to the next levels at her annual three-day Community Tennis Camp, set to run daily 9–11 a.m. starting Monday, July 20, on the courts across from Dillon Middle School.

Participants in the all-ages camp can soak up some of Woodard’s vast knowledge of the deceptively complex game of tennis, as well as her legendary energy levels and ability to inspire.

“She is a phenomenal lady,” said Lisa Rakich of Woodard, who coached her two sons at BCHS.

“I could tell from the time Brad was in sixth grade that Lois saw his skill set and challenges and would work with him extra to get better and better. She did that with all the players who came to her. She gives up a lot of her own personal time to help the kids,” added Rakich of Woodard, who helped mold her son Brad into a two-time state singles tennis champion.

“She pushed me out of my comfort zone, like good coaches do,” said Bradley Rakich, who played four years under Woodard at BCHS, winning the State A boys singles title in both his junior and senior seasons.

“She motivated me into hitting more during the offseason, and I started enjoying it more. She molded me into being a leader, into helping get the whole team motivated, not just myself,” said Rakich, recalling winning his second state singles title and holding off a full celebration until he could be sure the Beaver boys team took the team title.

“The first thing out of my mouth was, ‘Did Mark and Nate win yet?’ remembered Rakich of his immediate, instinctive inquiry into how his team’s top doubles duo fared in a match pivotal to Dillon winning the state team title.

“She smiled and gave me a quick hug,” said Rakich, who also went on to play tennis in his first year in college at Morningside.

“Off the court, Lois has taught me valuable lessons about sportsmanship, how to deal with other people, and on remaining calm and collected,” said Rakich, who has returned to Dillon to continue his college studies at the University of Montana Western.

“One thing I have gotten to know from Lois, she is really dedicated to her teams and players. She cares a lot about them,” said Chris Maul-Smith, whose tenure as head tennis coach at Corvallis roughly coincided with Woodard’s for the Beavers.

“She loved her players and definitely enjoyed being involved with those kids and watching them grow over the years,” said Maul-Smith, who retired this past year after more than three decades as a teacher.

“Learning tennis from Lois taught me a lot of life lessons and how to deal with some tough stuff. She is amazing and I am so grateful I got to know her,” said Ashlynn Sandall, a recent BCHS graduate who became the top local girls singles player under Woodard.

“She is just really invested in all her kids,” said Paffhausen-Linder, now a young mother.

“She still writes me letters. She just came to my baby shower. It has been awesome to continue a friendship with her after high school,” said Paffhausen of Woodard, who began helping coach BCHS tennis when she walked over to a Beavs practice on the old courts in Jaycee Park shortly after moving to the area and volunteered to help.

After that came 20 years of her coaching for Dillon, the addition of a boys tennis program to the girls program that existed when Woodard arrived, two state team titles, multiple doubles and singles titles for Dillon players, invaluable life lessons from Woodard, countless hours at meets that take up to 12 hours to pull off and the brightening of the lives hundreds of young locals who played tennis under Woodard, many of whom hadn’t picked up a racket before meeting Woodard.

“I have loved,” said Woodard, choking back tears, as she officially announced her retirement at the BCHS tennis banquet last month.

“I have loved, loved every minute of my time here. It was a tremendous blessing to me.”

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