Chris Simpson has stepped down as Head Coach of Boys’ tennis program at Harvard-Westlake. Simpson was one of the most decorated coaches at Harvard-Westlake.
In a statement to the Harvard-Westlake community, Athletic Director Terry Barnum said, “We are extremely grateful to Chris Simpson and all that he has done for our athletic program. He worked for many years with our highly competitive girls’ tennis and boys’ soccer programs and had unprecedented success with the boys’ tennis program at both the league and CIF level. Many of Simpson’s former athletes have gone on to enjoy success at the collegiate level.”
During his 18 year tenure at Harvard-Westlake, Simpson achieved what only few have done. When he first was appointed as program head, Simpson was expected to lead a group of unexperienced, undisciplined players. Before he took over as program head, boys’ tennis was not a prominent sport at Harvard-Westlake. Simpson, being an experienced coach, knew he had it in him to turn this program in another direction. He started with changing the players’ mindsets and discipline. He enforced his most important principles which were teamwork and a lack of individuality. Simpson preached togetherness and unity. He strived to make it so that each teammate could rely on each other for support. He expected his players to show up to every match and support their teammates. He also expected his players to cheer on their teammates in a big match or an important part of the match. After years, of enforcing these beliefs, Simpson transformed his unorganized team to a team which could not be separated. These principles led to the increasing success of what would become a championship team. While enforcing these principles over his 18 year career, he led his team to success which no other sport at Harvard-Westlake had ever achieved. In the past five years, Simpson has led his team to four CIF finals, two regional finals and two All-American finals. Of those finals, the tennis team won two CIF finals and one regional final. In 18 years, Simpson has not lost a league match and has won the league title 18 straight years.
In 2011, Simpson hired Robert “Bo” Hardt as a hitting partner for the top boys on the Varsity team. Two years later, Hardt became the Assistant coach of the team. Under Simpson, Hardt learned a lot about what it takes off the court to be a successful tennis player.
When asked about the most important lesson he learned, Hardt said “much more to leading a team and what happens on the court.”
Hardt has emphasized his interest in the job as head coach. He feels he has a strong bond with the players and believes that he can continue and build on Simpson’s legacy. Simpson’s legacy is so well respected throughout the community of high school tennis. His respect has come from the resilience that he has shown throughout the 18 years. He dedicated his life to the team. He stuck with them from when the program was unorganized and undisciplined and developed the program into one of the most elite in the nation. Simpson’s dedication finally paid off in 2002 when Harvard-Westlake defeated Santa Barbara on games in a 9-9 match. This is when both teams have won the same number of matches out of eighteen and the winner is determined on the team which has won the most number of games. The fact that Harvard-Westlake is undefeated in this scenario shows that the players are aware of the importance of every single game in a set. It shows that the players have the sense and seriousness to acknowledge the fact that every game can change the outcome of a match.
This mindset was taught by Simpson. Having coached boys and girls soccer teams at Harvard-Westlake, Coach Simpson was experienced in the coaching of team sports.
“Having been on school, club, and national teams, when I first came on the Harvard-Westlake team, within the first season, I realized the atmosphere had to be changed. I realized that there is no me in team. Especially in team tennis when your #1 singles can only get the same amount of wins compared to all the other positions on the team. Every position on the team can contribute the same amount of points or sets won. With that in mind, we created a culture where everybody supported each other. We created a positive competition in our squad. When there was pressure in a big match, we were able to come through. We won every 9-9 match which was won by the number of games won, we were 9-0 over 18 years. Everybody scrapped for everything. Every single game was important,” Simpson said.
Simpson’s way of coaching led to the team being an inseparable pack. The togetherness and unity of the groups of players has led to the success of many teams over the years. Simpson’s ideology and emphasis on a team mentality led him to what most coaches have never done been. Coach Simpson has spent several years dedicated to his job and to the sports community at Harvard-Westlake. The end of his career at the school has come, however, he will continue to make an impact on his athletes for years to come.