Three years ago at this time, my son was in the midst of his high school tennis season. It was his freshman year, and he had made the Varsity squad. He was so excited to have the opportunity to train with his teammates, one of whom had already committed to play college tennis the following year, and compete against the Big Boys from schools all around the state. While there were a few snags along the way, it was a great season for him and for his team. They won the Regional competition and made it to the State Tournament, losing a tough match in the semi-finals.
Despite having such a positive experience, my son decided to forego high school tennis his sophomore and junior years. He felt like the practices and matches detracted too much from his other tennis training, and he wanted to focus exclusively on developing his game to be ready for “recruiting season.” I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t play for his school, but I totally understood the reasons behind that decision and supported him 100%.
When he started his senior year this past August, my son was still a bit iffy about playing for his school. The decision would come down to whether or not he had committed to a college program by the time tryouts rolled around. Thankfully, he DID commit back in November and is now part of his school team for his final year. And the team is really good this year, filled with several high-level tournament players who have decided the State Championship is theirs for the taking. They haven’t played any matches yet, though, because of the crazy weather we’ve had so far this year (the first two matches were canceled due to snow! In Atlanta!), but the team practices are going well, and the boys are pumped up for the season.
Interestingly, high school tennis still gets a bad rap in the Junior Tennis World. I’m part of a Facebook group for High School Tennis Coaches, and one Volunteer Assistant Coach/Parent (click here for a link to his blog) recently posted that he was asked why his daughter was “wasting her time” with high school tennis. His response really hit home for me, so I’m sharing it with all of you in hopes that it will help us all remember the value of playing for something bigger than ourselves . . .
I guess first, my daughter was asked to play on the team. So she felt honored.
She knew (or, thought) she could contribute to an otherwise-mediocre performing team (their past years did not produce good records), and would be proud if she did.
She loves the social aspect of it. As y’all know, tennis can be lonely. It’s not like skateboarding where all the kids in the neighborhood grab their boards and ride around. If you spend a lot of time on the court training and at tournaments, you don’t really meet a lot of kids you hang out with. The only time you (mostly) see them is when you’re on the court. We’ve made several really good friends as families, but distance keeps the kids from just knocking on each other’s doors – “hey, does Alexis want to come out and play?” …By being on the school team, she’s hanging with kids from the community, and of course seeing them at school all day, etc.
The social circle expands as other kids in the school who are non-players become friends and then fans who sometimes come to the school matches.
She loves the “field trip” of going to visit and play at another school. After one recent away game, the team stopped at Subway for a bite. For some reason, she came home saying it was “the best field trip” (hopefully not so much for the Subway lol as for the interaction during the trip).
There’s an ego thing if she does win, she feels good.
WE love that it gives her exposure to other environments that she normally wouldn’t get. She goes to a public school of middle class working folk. Their team plays mostly very expensive private schools. So she gets to experience people and communities in their own worlds, which can teach a lot.
I like that she gets to experience going into a “hostile” environment, when they play away at another school, which adds another level of pressure to the competitive landscape. Playing in a USTA tournament, it’s pretty much neutral ground. But when you’re a visiting team – think any professional sport, where you get home advantage – there’s added stress to work through.
I think exposure to the other coaches at the other schools is a good thing, but I have no idea if I’m correct there.
And I think playing team tennis could help if and when she is considering playing college tennis. But I don’t know if it’s at all a factor college coaches look at. But being part of a team, knowing that her Win is not just an individual win but can help the whole team win….that’s both another level of pressure and a worthy goal.
Having said all that, she IS missing out on some hours with her private coach, and playing less USTA tournaments. So there is a downside, but I think a few weeks here and there (she also takes time off to play on the rec soccer league) is outweighed by the benefits of being on the team.
I would love to hear from y’all about your child’s experiences playing high school tennis. Has it been positive? If so, why? If not, please share details! Overall, for those junior players who want to play college tennis, I think playing at least one year of high school tennis can be very beneficial, if for no other reason than to expose them to the concept of playing for something bigger than themselves. For those players who do not have college tennis aspirations, it makes perfect sense to me for them to engage in their sport at the high school level, if for no other reason than to showcase their talent among school peers.
Here’s to a great season for all our high school players – GO RAIDERS!