Steve Kolkka can’t quite put a finger on the key to his coaching success, but whatever he does continues to work.
Kolkka, the Alpharetta boys tennis coach and a resident of Forsyth County for the past 15 years, snagged his fourth state championship during the spring, as the Raiders defeated Westlake High School 3-2 for their second Class AAAAA title in three years.
"I’ve got to be doing something right," Kolkka said, laughing.
"I just somehow get my players to peak at the right time. I have good, quality players who know how to compete in pressure situations."
Early in his career, Kolkka taught part-time at small private schools in New Jersey while he tried to move into a full-time job in the public school system. But job security was an issue for teachers in New Jersey at the time, so Kolkka visited a friend in Georgia in 1982 and found a full-time position in three days.
Kolkka now teaches P.E. at Webb Bridge Middle School, which feeds into the Alpharetta school system. His wife, Cheryl, works at South Forsyth Middle School.
Kolkka coached North Springs to a Class AAA boys title in 1993 and Milton to a Class AAAAA boys championship in 2003, before taking Alpharetta all the way in 2010.
Although Kolkka views the first tennis championship he won as "the most special," he said the title earned this spring was his favorite.
After Brookwood bounced Alpharetta from the playoffs in the 2011 season, the Raiders returned the favor this year by rallying to defeat the defending champion Broncos 3-2 en route to the state title.
"There was a point where we lost the first set in No. 1 and No. 3 singles and came back to win the match," Kolkka said.
"There’s a reason I go out and schedule quality competition. I want our team to be used to playing tough games."
Kolkka has two players nationally ranked in the top 10 who will join his team each of the next two years.
His lenient attendance policy to matches entices top caliber players to join the team. He understands that some of his players want to play in individual tournaments to better equip themselves for college.
"I tell them that they have to be around for key games and for the playoffs," Kolkka said.
"The scholarship money is in the individual matches. But, they need to know that it’s important to play in a team setting. College tennis is going to be a team game."
Former No. 2 singles tennis player Sam Jang-Milsten, who played on both championship teams, said coach Kolkka sets the tone early for what is expected of the players.
"He does a real good job of supporting us," Jang-Milsten said. "He lets you know before the season starts that he wants your best and wants you to be dedicated.
"I’d say he’s one of the best high school coaches around."