Ever since he took over the Rancho Mirage High School boys’ and girls’ tennis programs when the school opened, Rattler coach Owen McIntosh has had high hopes of overcoming the obstacles of building successful teams from the ground up from a much smaller pool.
After his girls finished the 2016 fall season 21-0, capturing their second consecutive De Anza League title and winning the school’s first-ever CIF team title, McIntosh was named the CIF Southern Section Girls’ Tennis Coach of the Year across all divisions by the California Coaches’ Association.
This week’s award, as gratifying as it may be, will only make more headway into bolstering Rancho Mirage as one of — if not the — premier high school tennis programs in the Coachella Valley.
The Rattlers coach said he remembered being nominated for the award after his girls’ undefeated season, but had forgotten about it until receiving word Monday that he’d won. This award puts him in the running to be named both the Southern California Coach of the Year, as well as the State Coach of the Year, which will be announced in April.
“It feels good to be appreciated. You never go into these things, especially at the high school level, looking for the adoration of people or star power,” he said. “To be recognized, to have someone actually see the effort you put in and the results of what comes from that is very satisfying. I have to say I’m enjoying that.”
Before taking over at Rancho Mirage when the school opened in the fall of 2013, McIntosh never had any official high school coaching experience. A product of four generations of educators, he’d always enjoyed coaching his sons’ baseball teams, as well as his daughter, Morgan – who now coaches the Palm Desert girls’ tennis team – in tennis, and his daughter, Casey, in golf. Both girls went on to have college athletics careers.
“I love teaching, and I always have,” he said. “Imparting the knowledge to other people, especially kids, where the learning curve is so great and they appreciate it so much … I get a charge out of that.”
When he heard about Rancho Mirage High School opening and read that coaching openings, including tennis, were available, he came in and sat down with athletic director Chris Calderwood, who hired McIntosh for the girls’ position on-the-spot. While walking out, before McIntosh got to his car, he’d accepted the boys’ position, too.
Initially, the coach said he battled issues with inexperience — he had to rally the community to get rackets in kids’ hands and tennis shoes on their feet. Fishing in a much smaller talent pool didn’t help either, but because McIntosh took over the programs from the start, he took advantage of the opportunity to mold them his own way.
“I believe strongly that things happen for a reason and they’re earned. I started the program with very fundamental stuff and built on it day-by-day,” he said. “It doesn’t come easy. It’s something you have to work at.”
In seasons to come, don’t doubt the hard work on McIntosh’s end to cease, but it may start to pay even bigger dividends. After the girls’ CIF title and his coaching accolades, he said he hopes budding tennis stars making their high school decisions will choose to become Rattlers.
“If (coaches) are noticing, then hopefully the community is too, and more kids will be inclined to say ‘Hey, I’d like to play tennis at Rancho Mirage’,” he said. “I’m always looking to have my program enhanced, and I think this is one way of doing it.”
About Owen McIntosh
Coached Rancho Mirage boys and girls for three varsity seasons
Girls’ team went 21-0 this season and has won 46 total matches in three years
Led girls to CIF Southern Section Division 5 title in 2016 and second consecutive DAL title
Named CIF Southern Section Girls’ Tennis Coach of the Year in 2016 by the California Coaches’ Association