Robert Dail: A can’t-miss prospect

Published 6:30 pm Saturday, April 19, 2008

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
When you are ranked academically in the top 10 of a class of roughly 250 people, possess a weighted GPA of 4.3 and have just accepted a scholarship to Appalachian State, as is the case for Robert Dail, your options are as limitless as Pete Sampras’ range.
So where does the Washington tennis player see himself in 10 years? Right back where he started.
Dail is a North Carolina teaching fellow which, in essence, is a deal that provides a student with a majority of his college tuition, as long as the student agrees to teach at a public school for four years upon graduation.
The program is a clever one, designed to encourage the state’s top minds from leaving, while persuading them to teach where they are needed most.
Dail is a clever one, too. It was never his plan to go into the private sector. But if someone is willing to pick up the tab for college, well, let’s just say you don’t have to have a 4.3 GPA to know that’s a good deal.
Dail is Pam Pack down to the core and, right after the day he throws his cap into the air and nails his degree/degrees to the wall, he will make a U-turn and head straight towards Washington.
There is no reason to think they won’t.
Dail has all the makings of a wonderful teacher, and the right temperament to coach prep sports; he is a can’t-miss prospect.
Dedication to the sport? Check. Compassion? Check.
Being a good athlete and a brilliant student, it might seem as if everything comes easy to Dail, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that Dail works extremely hard for everything he has achieved, and doesn’t always succeed, which is a good thing.
In the classroom, Dail smashes tests the way Arthur Ashe smashed backhands in his prime. But on the tennis court, Dail is more like a Bruce Chen, showing flashes of brilliance mixed with inconsistent play.
Last season Dail was a reserve on the Pam Pack’s tennis roster, and didn’t see significant playing time until sixth-seed Trey Moore was injured. This season, Dail was thrust into the two spot, forced to play opponents whose skills are much more refined.
Dail knew going into this season that he might be a bit out-matched, but looked forward to the challenge and has handled the adversity.
The fact that he isn’t the most dominating tennis player on the team is his biggest flaw and his greatest strength. It’s what will ultimately make him a great teacher and coach.
It’s what makes him able to relate to the average person. The super star athlete can’t coach because everything he did came easy to him. See Isiah Thomas and Ted Williams.
If Dail were to excel at everything, how could he relate to the frustrated student who can’t grasp biology as fast as the others?
Ability to connect with every athlete on the roster? Check.
What makes Dail the ideal teacher and coach is that he puts things in the proper perspective. The classroom comes first, then sports.
Reality? Check.