Girls tennis: Barrington's Waters-Miller enjoying her final season
Tracy Waters-Miller wears many hats. Teacher, coach, triathlete, fitness manager, national swimmer, skier, golfer and mentor, but most would describe the Barrington girls tennis coach as a lifelong friend.
Waters-Miller has advised the careers of hundreds of high school students over the course of her 33-year career. This weekend's Class 2A state tennis tournament will be her final curtain call as the Fillies' skipper.
The 2009 National Coach of the Year heads into her final weekend similar to the fashion she came in -- Mid-Suburban League champion (shared with Fremd), a Jacobs sectional champion and nearly a full team heading to the state tennis finals.
"It's just a privilege to be able to coach and teach," Waters-Miller said. "We talk about life lessons and tennis. Coming into this season I knew it was going to be my last year. The past brings us to the present.
"It's really a calculated gamble to a point. You have to put together the best of the team matching up skill and the chemistry. In hindsight it worked. We were chasing the wins, and not avoiding the losses. Once you create a team atmosphere, a team that you can't put a lot of holes in, it brings success to the program. Because we're a team; we're Barrington."
Waters-Miller began her teaching and coaching career at Crystal Lake South and remained there for 18 years. The Barrington physical education teacher retired for eight years as her husband David traveled frequently for work. She wanted to spend more time with her two children, Charlie and Jonathan. Her son Charlie ultimately was the first state qualifier in tennis for Marengo High School. Jonathan went on to major in Engineering at Notre Dame.
Waters-Miller returned to teaching at Barrington in 2004, and began to make history.
Under her watch, Barrington accumulated over 600 wins, 24 MSL championships (23 of them consecutive), 10 sectional championships (eight of them running) and eight Top-10 finishes at the state tournament (team runner-up 2005 losing to Deerfield by one point and a third-place finish in 2004).
In her 14-year Barrington tenure, she coached a state champion in Kelsey Linden/Whitney Martin in 2005 and a runner-up in Linden/Kristy Dodge in 2007.
"The best way to describe her is a great motivational coach," Dodge said. "She knows how to optimize talent. She did the best with the lineup and made sure she had good depth. I hope one day that I'll be half the coach that she was. She's just truly a mentor till the end. A mentor for all of us."
Waters-Miller mentored an array of players that performed at a high caliber to finish in the top 16 in Illinois including Kelsey, Jessica, Allie and Michelle Linden, Martin, Dodge, Meg Crowley, Morgan Logue, Zoe Kasiurak, Heather Ciskowski and countless other Fillies state qualifiers.
With her undying dedication to the sport, Waters-Miller never competed in high school tennis. As a student years ago, tennis wasn't offered at Crystal Lake High School (present-day Crystal Lake Central).
However nine years after Waters-Miller graduated her sister, Katie Waters, along with then partner Sandy Dunning won a doubles state title in 1977.
"There were no sports at all when I was in school," Waters-Miller said. "I play a lot of other sports too. All of these experiences in other sports helped me relate because there was always somebody better."
During the 2010 state tournament, Waters-Miller's late husband David passed away after a bout with prostate cancer. While mourning his passing, Waters-Miller willed her team to a seventh-place finish in the tournament.
"David was my biggest fan, and he absolutely loved me teaching and coaching," Waters-Miller said. "(David) always supported me and provided balance for me and my kids. (The year David passed), so many people came back from past years to support our family. It was a positive energy. It's still amazing, I'm not sure how I did that then."
"That woman is tough as nails," Dodge said of Waters-Miller. "She's so strong and composed and so strong for her kids. She's such a great role model. I don't know how she handled it."
Waters-Miller takes her final curtain call this season and explained she couldn't do it without other coaches like Don Nead, Eric Rodrigo, Jack Boyer, Heather Graham and John Roncone.
The Barrington coach will take her final bow following the performance of qualifiers junior Niyanthi Puliyala and seniors Mounika Gadiraju, Kathleen and Caroline Tomasian and Julia Pisani.
"There's a reason why you do this for a while," Waters-Miller said. "When you have the support of coaches, administration and family, it makes it really fun. I still have wonderful friendships with many of my players. I'm not done yet. I'll throw my resume somewhere, but I'm not ready to be totally out of teaching and coaching."