Reggae music drifted from portable speakers. A gentle breeze wafted through tree branches just starting to bud.
The absence of leaves allowed views of the Fore River shimmering in the afternoon sunshine.
All eyes, however, were on the organized chaos unfolding on three upper tennis courts, where Waynflete boys’ coach Jeff Madore was overseeing a game of Live Ball, which starts on three courts with two players per side and six balls in play, and ends on the middle court with one ball and as many as six players on each side.
“He always has different drills for us,” said senior Brandon Ameglio, returning at No. 1 singles. “We do some of the same stuff, of course, but he mixes it up with different drills that we haven’t seen in years. And they’re all good, and help us get better at different parts of our game.”
Madore’s philosophy is a winning one. His Flyers have won nine straight Class C state championships, matching the streaks put together by the South Portland girls in Class A (1973-81), Cape Elizabeth girls in Class B (1990-98), and Falmouth girls in B and A (2008-present).
A native of Rockland, Madore grew up with football, basketball and baseball, and played baseball for one year at the University of Maine under Jack Butterfield. Tennis came later, as an adult. He began coaching in 2002 with the Waynflete girls’ team after retiring as a chemical engineer and switched to the boys in 2007.
“I don’t even know if we won half our (matches) that first year,” Madore said. “I was changing the whole system around and we had a lot of young kids. And then the next year we got (Brandon) Thompson.”
Thompson (2010) is one of the three Waynflete boys to win a singles state title under Madore. The others are Patrick Ordway (2011) and Isaac Salas (2015). Devin Van Dyke, who came in as a freshman in 2007 with Madore, said his old coach is even more effective with doubles players.
“A good coach can make a big difference in doubles,” said Van Dyke, who played at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and is in his first year of medical school. “He can turn kids who don’t have much formal teaching in tennis into pretty effective doubles players and … quickly.”
Van Dyke’s younger brother, John, a senior on this year’s team, played first doubles last spring.
“I was at pretty much every match of his, cheering him on,” John said. “It’s been great to kind of carry on Devin’s legacy and be part of the team. We definitely feel some pressure. This is the big 1-0, the big year. It would be a decade.”
Madore is a proponent of pressure and tries to incorporate aspects of competition into every practice. Take a drill he calls First Ball Cross Court.
“So if I feed you the ball, you’ve got to bring it back cross court,” Madore said. “There are several iterations of this. One would just be Play It Out. One would be a game we call Chess, which is really about when to change ball direction. We want them to change ball direction either on a short outside ball or an inside ball that they can handle and go the other way.”
Once the ball changes direction, the point doubles in value. Games are to five. A short ball (anything that lands inside the service line) loses a point for the striker and requires the receiver to come to net to finish the point. Unforced errors mean points for your opponent.
“You make a lot of games like this where you really put the pressure on them by the scoring system,” Madore said. “You want to keep them focused and concentrating. You want to keep it competitive and fun, but you also want to make it strategic.”
Madore rarely raises his voice and never loses his temper. His players call him Jeff but clearly maintain an appropriate level of respect.
“That’s helpful, to have him always calm,” said junior Jacob Greene. “If you’re kind of flustered in a match, he can calm you down and say, ‘Just start over, start fresh.’ ”
“I’ve seen him turn matches around with a few well-placed words,” Devin Van Dyke said. “He’d find where the holes are in the other guy’s game and you could turn it around from there.”
Madore also keeps practices fresh by bringing in alumni or competitive adults to hit with his players. Devin Van Dyke said he’s probably come back four different years to rally with those who came after him at the Fore River courts.
“It feels just as it did when I left,” Van Dyke said. “The kids know him and respect him, and he knows how to run these good, effective practices.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or