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Tennis: Lifetime of Success – As teacher and player, Cook has made huge mark in tennis

UL coach Meg Cook poses here with her 1984 Cajun women's tennis team.
1984 Women’s Tennis Team-1st Row-Carla Armato, Sherine El Sakka, Melinda Drouin, Dawn Herron, Hiroko Mimachi, Joy Pujol. 2nd Row-Coach Meg Cook, Terry Tennison, Susan Magruder, Beatrice Konig, Angie Bellard, Kristi Eichelberger
UL coach Meg Cook poses here with her 1984 Cajun women’s tennis team. / Submitted photo
Meg Cook's tennis legacy began as a player at UL. 
Meg Cook’s tennis legacy began as a player at UL

Bruce Brown, written for Athletic Network, The Advertiser, April 11. 2013

Meg Cook didn’t set out to make history. It just worked out that way.

Cook, who has built a successful career as a teaching professional at Oakbourne Country Club while working with head tennis pro and fellow UL graduate Paul Griffith, was the first female recipient of an athletic scholarship in school history.

She felt so at home in Lafayette, in fact, that she was willing to attend UL and play for the Ragin’ Cajun women without a scholarship.

“I remember playing a junior tennis tournament at UL Monroe and staying in their dorm for a week,” Cook said. “(ULM) President Vines talked to me and said he’d like to see me play for them.

“But my heart was at UL. I loved the campus, the people, the food, the atmosphere. So, I was willing to go there and play without a scholarship. After my sophomore year, LSU offered me, then UL offered me a scholarship.

“UL people were always down to earth, friendly, unassuming. They showed they appreciated what I had done. It made me want to continue to work hard.”

She was Meg Scopes in those days, a young athlete raised in Lafayette and New Orleans who hadn’t picked up tennis until age 16 but who quickly found a niche.

“I played my first tournament at 16, and did well,” Cook said. “It was different then. There wasn’t anybody to tell you that you couldn’t do something, so I felt there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. The sky’s the limit.

“We all competed hard in junior competition, but we were friends. You’d go to Shreveport for a tournament, and spend a week staying at a friend’s (and competitor’s) house.”

Cook, who counted Mary and Julie Arnie among friends from that era, recalls having “a lot of fun. You’d play until 2 or 3 in the morning. If it rained, you’d play cards. Now it’s not like that. Athletes are more coddled, but they also don’t socialize.

“I can recall my father dropping me off at Beaver Park on his way to work, and I would hang out all day playing tennis and being with other kids.”

Cook made her mark. She won the Sugar Bowl tournament 21-under singles title and teamed with Kay McDaniel for the doubles crown.

"Years ago,” she said, “I had a good backhand with topspin. I was fast and I could volley well.”

Those skills served Cook well at UL, where she played from 1975-78 and where she began the teaching phase of her career as coach from 1978-84. She was 53-71 as a coach, including 13-9 in 1983 and 16-10 in her final campaign on the college level.

“In college, we would play a lot of slice, drop-balls, go to the net,” Cook said. “We used smaller racquets then. We didn’t have much of a budget. We’d get two balls for a singles match, then use the same ones for doubles.”

Also different was the order of play. Six singles matches hit the courts before doubles. Often a team could rally from 2-4 down after singles and win 5-4 in dramatic fashion with strong doubles.

Schedules could get interesting, too.

“I remember playing in an invitational at Texas, and we had a lot of rain,” Cook said. “I ended up playing 8 pro sets on the Sunday, and that was only the quarterfinals. At Northwestern State one time, I won the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in one day, finishing at 2 a.m.”

Married to former UL baseball standout Danny Cook and mother of five, Cook has thrived teaching the game she loves.

“I like to strategize and play the game, and teach a lot of technique,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of fun, very rewarding. If you love what you do, it’s not work. You always look at what you can do to get better.

“My strength (as a teacher) is that I keep the fun in it. You do have to work hard, but you need a balance. Most people want to work hard to get better, so you give them challenging drills.

“You teach differently if you teach kids, but once you find they’re serious you put your foot on the pedal.”

Cook, one of several former Cajun men and women players teaching the game in south Louisiana, is still eager to learn from playing others and can’t envision getting off the court just yet.

“It is what you make of it,” she said.

Even if you make history in the process.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tennis Reunion

UL’s Ragin’ Cajun tennis program will hold a reunion of past players and coaches in conjunction with the school hosting the Sun Belt Conference Tennis Championhips April 17-21 at Cajun Courts.
To view the reunion information, please click on www.athleticnetwork.net > Ragin’ Cajun Reunions and Special Events banner > the Tennis Reunion or email athleticnetwork@louisiana.edu.
The reunion also has its own Facebook page designed by Milou Israel (WTennis 2008-12).