Columbus North needed a girls tennis coach in the spring of 1980, so Doug and Judy Bonnell stepped in and led the program.
The Bonnells coached for only one season, but their legacy lives on in the Bull Dogs tennis program. Their son Jay Bonnell played for North in the late 1980s, and their grandson Isaac Jackson is a senior on this year’s team.
“I can remember when I was in preschool, my grandpa would take me out to the courts at Donner (Park), and just going out and picking up a racket and trying to hit balls as best I could,” Jackson said. “That passion kept on developing, and now I’m here.”
That’s good news to the Bonnells. They’ve made it to most of Jackson’s matches over the past four years.
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“It’s very fulfilling to watch him play because I’ve watched Doug play tennis since our early 20s, and then I watched our son play and now, I’m watching Isaac play,” Judy Bonnell said. “It’s fun and exciting.”
Doug Bonnell came out of coaching retirement a few years ago to help Dale Guse with the Northside Middle School team when Jackson was playing there.
At that time, Bonnell worked with some of the players that are on this year’s Bull Dogs team, including Jackson and his doubles partner, Ben Mathew.
“I’ve seen most of these guys develop from middle school, and it’s really enjoyable,” Doug Bonnell said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed his playing.”
The Bonnells’ daughter and Jackson’s mother, Amy Jackson, remembers going to matches in an unairconditioned volkswagen bus when her parents were coaching. She did not play tennis in high school, however.
Either Amy Jackson or husband Ben — and usually both — have been to every one of Isaac’s high school matches.
“It’s great to see somebody else in our family representing Bull Dog tennis,” Amy Jackson said.
Isaac Jackson is 6-foot-7 and doesn’t really know where he got his height since his parents aren’t that tall. Doug Bonnell thinks it came from Bonnell’s grandfather, who was 6-4.
Regardless of how he got so tall, Isaac Jackson figures it’s an advantage on the tennis court.
“Especially on my serve, I can really get up and just hit the ball more down, so it has a higher bounce and is tougher for them to return,” he said. “Then, my wingspan up at the net really helps with my volleys and my reach.”
After two years at the junior varsity level, Jackson broke into the varsity lineup at No. 2 doubles last season. This year, he and Mathew were 12-7 at No. 1 doubles going into Monday’s regular-season finale at Roncalli.
The Bull Dogs are 12-4 and finished second in Conference Indiana this season. They host the sectional Wednesday through Friday.
“Isaac has brought a lot to the team with his leadership as a captain this year, and he’s grown in his skills ability,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “He’s committed a little bit more into tennis in the offseason, as well. He’s one of the guys you like to look up to because he fires everybody up, and he’s not afraid to get on the guys. You look forward to having people like that on the team to look to.”
Jackson likely is nearing the end of his competitive tennis career. He plans to study finance at either DePauw, Hillsdale (Michigan) or Flagler (Florida), but doesn’t plan to continue playing, except for fun.
That’s something Jackson has been experiencing plenty of this season.
“I’m having a lot more fun this year,” Jackson said. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because it’s my senior year, but I do feel like I’m playing better.”
Name: Isaac Jackson
School: Columbus North
Position: No. 1 doubles
Sports: Tennis, lacrosse