Love more than a score

When Baby Shane was born in January, it was safe to say that his life would include plenty of tennis, Estancia High tennis to be exact.

It’s also fair to say there would be a lot of love in his life. With regard to tennis, this love meant so much more than the zero in a set.

Baby Shane was born to tennis coach Rachel de los Santos and her husband, Derek Smith, the assistant coach. Instantly, he also became a part of the Estancia family, especially on the girls’ tennis team.

This season, while de los Santos and her husband juggle their schedules and switch hats throughout the week, Baby Shane has found comfort and calm at tennis matches. That’s where the baby boy is passed around from one mom to the next or one player to the other, everyone getting their baby fix.

Smith and his wife had a feeling life would be like this, with a baby, while trying to be parents, teachers and coaches.

“It’s kept us on our toes for sure,” Smith said of dealing with the schedule throughout the week. “The tennis season has meant long days. Now with us having a small child, we have our hands full. We have to make sure we are accounted for. It’s just made it all exciting, something that you have to be flexible with.”

Smith is certainly flexible. He’s a teacher at Costa Mesa, yet still coaches at Estancia, where he began as a student teacher. He said he thinks of the schools as one in the same. But he’ll have to make his choice today when the Eagles play at Costa Mesa in an Orange Coast League match.

“They’re both part of my family,” Smith said of the rival schools. “Estancia feels like a second home to me. I student-taught there and I coach there. I really got to know a lot of the teachers and staff.”

Smith and de los Santos also form lasting relationships with the students and players. They attend most sporting events and also go to some of the school dances.

A couple of their former students work as nannies for their family. Steffanie Phan, who graduated in 2006 and played for the Estancia girls’ tennis team, helps out with Baby Shane, while de los Santos and Smith work and coach.

Yes, at Estancia, it’s one big, happy family.

The home of the Eagles is also where de los Santos and Smith fell in love.

It wasn’t too long ago that Smith’s roommate, Dominic Lakey, introduced the young girls’ tennis coach to Smith. Lakey coached track and field.

He eventually left Estancia, but the love remained between Smith and de los Santos.

In 2005, they married.

Sometimes love happens when and where you least expect it, yet the tennis coaches have seen love seemingly come so naturally, especially with the addition of Baby Shane.

Usually in the spring, de los Santos also coaches the boys’ tennis team. She took last year off to devote more time to the baby and her family. But this spring, she’s planning to return.

She wants to coach junior varsity, for less pressure, but she will most likely coach the varsity because that had been her role for the previous eight seasons.

She has been teaching for 10 years. When she was first asked if she could coach a sport, she suggested tennis. But she thought she would be given a junior varsity team.

However, she became the varsity coach. Both she and Smith have helped change the program in that time, having success in both the Golden West League and Orange Coast League.

Having a player like Ellie Edles the past four years also helped. Edles graduated in the spring and moved on to play for UC Davis.

So starts a new day for the Estancia girls’ tennis team, and Baby Shane is along for the ride.

“He has lots of girlfriends and they take turns passing him around,” de los Santos said.

Smith has also noticed that Baby Shane receives lots of love.

“All the girls on the tennis team love to hold him,” Smith said. “The mothers who are there to watch their daughters play are also there to hold him. He has plenty of people to take care of him when we have our hands tied with tennis.”

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