Last year, about this time, I was writing regularly about my son’s experience on his high school tennis team – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
However, due to some ridiculous eligibility rule changes by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), my son did not play for his school team this year. It was HIS choice, don’t get me wrong, but, basically, our state governing body made it very unattractive for any high-level players to join their high school teams this year – to summarize, the rule said that a player lost eligibility if he or she trained for his/her sport during stated school hours. For my son and many other tennis players, their school hours are modified in such a way as to include “zero period” and online classes so they can get to the courts earlier in the afternoons for training. In other words, they get out of school an hour or two earlier than the rest of the student body. Under the new GHSA rule, that modified schedule and their extra training made them ineligible to play.
That said, there were still many talented high-schoolers who played this season as evidenced by the tight matches during this past weekend’s State Finals. And, there is hope for the rest of the players as I recently heard GHSA reversed that eligibility rule for the 2013-14 school year.
And now, especially in light of what recently happened at UGA with its number 1 singles player on the men’s side, it seems to me that high school tennis needs to take on a bigger role in preparing our juniors for tennis at the collegiate level.
A fellow tennis mom feels exactly the same way. “I’m so tired of hearing ‘nobody cares about high school tennis’. In light of the recent events [sic], shouldn’t college coaches reconsider the high school player? These kids play for the sheer joy and camaraderie that they get from being a member of a team and representing their school (and they don’t get paid to do it)! They give up individual opportunities to earn tournament points and improve their rankings so they can play and practice with their team. Isn’t that exactly what college coaches are or should be looking for?”
I would love to see high school tennis become a training ground for college. Unfortunately, at least where we are, the level of coaching the high school teams receive is pretty amateurish. Often times, a teacher or coach from another sport are recruited to coach tennis even though they may have little or no knowledge about the sport. It makes it a very tough decision for a kid who is used to training at a high level to take a step backward in order to play for his or her school team. Add to that the fact that many college coaches and recruiting consultants have said over and over that they don’t care whether a kid plays for his school; they simply care about tournament performance and ranking/rating. Is it wonder that many top-level juniors are opting out of high school tennis?