By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
You always hear the phrase “pass the torch.”
When those words come into your mind, you generally think of someone older, wiser and more experienced passing something along to someone younger, the next generation.
If you happen to stop by a Fairmont Senior boys’ tennis match, you’ll see a torch that has been passed in the most literal sense.
This torch isn’t used to ignite a physical flame, but it has lit Trey Giorcelli’s game on fire.
You see, Trey plays his games with his father Mark’s tennis racket.
But it’s not just an old racket that’s been lying around for decades that was used once or twice. Rather, it’s the same racket Mark used to win a state championship when he played tennis at East Fairmont High School in 1979.
“He doesn’t bring it up too much but he has told me the story somewhat,” Trey said of his father’s win. “He told me that he won on a really great serve right down the middle.”
The racket, a Pro Staff 6.0, came into Trey’s hands after he broke the strings on his own racket. With his father not wanting him to miss any practice time with a broken racket, he suggested an alternative.
“Finally I said, ‘Until I get your racket strung, you’re going to use this. You’re not going to miss a practice,’” Mark said. “When he started banging it, he was in heaven.”
When Mark made the suggestion, he didn’t think his son would stick with his old racket, an unpopular model in today’s tennis world.
“I asked him to use it, but he knew it was mine from back in my day and I think at first he might have felt like it was embarrassing or maybe it was not a racket of his time,” Mark explained. “Mine’s a midsize, and back in that time midsize was popular. And now they went to the big-headed ones.”
Trey, though, has developed his game with the racket and said it fits his style well.
“I started trying it out in practice and I liked the momentum behind it,” the junior said. “It hits the ball pretty hard. So I just kept using it because I got used to it.”
While it took a little time to get used to the new racket, once he did, his father noticed a special bond between his son and his old racket.
During a match earlier in the season, Trey was winning handily and his father yelled to him during a break in his match.
“He was beating the heck out of this kid, and I came to the fence to talk to one of my girls and he came over to pick up a tennis ball and I said out loud, ‘You’re loving that racket now, aren’t you, brother?’” Mark explained. “And he looked up at me and laughed. He finally had to give in to his dad.”
With using the new racket comes learning new technique and a new set of skills, something Trey has been picking up.
“He’s understanding now that all these years that he’s been using a racket that puts a lot of spring on the ball. And for beginners, they don’t have the control to hit the correct shot every time. So if there’s a lot of spring in that racket, they’re going to eventually pop it out,” Mark said. “It lets you put all kinds of spin on the ball and lets you hold the ball long enough for you to really play your arm. Kids don’t understand that. They go to Dick’s and buy these nice rackets and the factory sends them strong and built like slingshots.”
But, together, both father and son grow in the experience.
“That’s something that I wanted to do a long time ago. I love it,” Mark said, smiling. “He gets a little bull-headed now and then, but with him I know that he’s better since it’s a father-son relationship. I tell him something and then I walk away.
“I don’t know if I make him nervous so I’ll say good job, do this, do that and I’ll walk away. I’ll notice from a distance and he’ll get in the zone and he does better.”
The father-son relationship, Mark said, is what led him to coaching in the first place, this being his first year at the reins of a young Fairmont Senior team while taking on the responsibility of coaching both the boys’ and girls’ teams. But now that he’s here, there’s no place he’d rather be.
Trey thinks the year so far has been fun with his dad around and using his old racket. Knowing that his father is a former state champion and the fact that he still has two seasons left, he’s hoping to one-up his old man.
“I hope I can win a state championship, and if I could win two that’d be great,” he said with a smile.
Mark hopes the same and is relishing his time spent as a coach, not only to his son but to everyone on both teams, saying it’s satisfying to see the kids learn so much and be hungry for tennis knowledge.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “It’s nice when you see them walking to the fence because they want you to come up and tell them something.”
For now, at least, Mark will keep his eye on his son, and his racket, in hopes of a solid season.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.