Welcome to #TIGERTALK – a SweetwaterNOW exclusive series where Rock Springs High School Tigers inspire our community by telling their stories in their own words.
I’m sure most of these articles start with phrases like, “I have played since I was three”, or “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love this sport”. For me, my sports journey has been a bit more on the unconventional side.
I grew up with a dad who wanted a baseball prodigy, a flawless pitcher, and someone who could brag about their nearly perfect batting average. In hindsight, you aren’t going to find any of these at a t-ball field, with kids who don’t even know where to run after hitting the ball, however, he could hope.
Fast forward six or seven years, I was training to be a pitcher, with a nearly perfect batting average. You would think that I had everything I’d ever wanted, when really, I
was miserable. I spent my entire life up to that point, playing a sport I hated, only to get a smile on someone’s face. I realized it wasn’t worth it. After my parents got divorced, I decided I never wanted to play a sport again, and there was nobody around to pressure me to do so.
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From seventh grade, all the way to my junior year, I refused to participate in a sport because everyone had already played since they were young. It seemed almost impossible to have a fighting chance at anything, so I just decided to avoid sports entirely.
A Need for Sport Again
On April 17th, 2021, I got into a nearly fatal car accident. Getting hit from behind, and then head on, with cars going 50 miles per hour, I was left concussed with a broken nose and a back full of torn ligaments and tendons.
My life flipped upside-down in a matter of seconds, leaving me mentally and physically in a bind.
After weeks and weeks of recovery, it was time to rebuild my strength. It was recommended that I participate in a sport or find some physical activity to consistently participate in. When looking at the fall sports schedule, the only sport that seemed of any interest to me was tennis.
From the outside looking in, tennis seems like a cake walk. You hit the ball with the racket and it goes in. How hard could it be, right?
Every ball I hit (if I could even hit it) would either sky-rocket to Mars, or be slammed into the ground at my feet. After my first day of hitting with my friends I decided tennis wasn’t for me. I was ready to quit, but my mom told me to give it a week at least, so I did.
Long story short, I didn’t get much better, but if I was being honest with myself, I was starting to realize how appealing tennis could be. After that, I practiced almost every day, trying to learn how to hit the ball well, recover, and hit it again.
When all those long nights of summer practice came to an end, it was time for the actual season to start. I showed up to my first practice and everyone was confused as to who I was. Usually, the varsity side of the tennis team consists of the same people as the last season minus the people who graduated, but there I was. Sure, I wasn’t the best of the bunch, but I was competition.
After a week’s worth of tryouts and practices, I made the varsity team.
Throughout my junior and senior seasons, I was faced with many challenges on and off the courts. For my junior season, I went in with less than three months of experience, and I was playing people with upwards of six years of experience. Even this year, I had only a year under my belt. Not only did it make a victory seem impossible, it made me feel like I couldn’t catch up. It was like no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be a successful player.
Now, I’d be lying if I told you I just picked myself up and kept going. It was genuinely demoralizing to watch myself get destroyed by another team. Finally, I learned all I could do was take it one point, game, and set at a time. I can’t say that I had the most successful season ever, but I was able to gain experience, which would prove to be crucial.
On a surface level, tennis seems like a completely physical game. However, you’d be surprised at the amount of mental fortitude required to be successful. It is critical to constantly be finding holes in the other team’s strategy, and placing the ball somewhere the opposing team will not reach. You have to be completely confident in every ball you hit, and praise your partner simultaneously while constantly staying aware for the duration of the point, and relying on reaction time alone.
This seemed terrifying to me, but it was also exhilarating.
The hardest part of playing tennis, actually, had nothing to do with tennis. Maintaining a job working 20+ hours a week, my grades at the high school and the 16 credit
hours worth of college I was enrolled in, my relationships with others around me, tennis, and my mental well-being proved to be the biggest challenge I had faced in a long time. It felt like I couldn’t drop the ball on anything, and quite honestly, it made me miserable. With all of these different things that required complete balance, I had no time to myself to do anything but those responsibilities.
While it was difficult, it was a sacrifice I chose.
A Heartfelt Thank You
Tennis helped me find a community where competition is welcomed and considered healthy. It serves as an escape for me to get my mind off of things, relax, and hit a few balls.
As my senior season comes to an end, oddly enough I find myself experiencing many emotions. I never thought I would be so distraught about a sport’s season coming to a close. Not only does the thought of no longer having practices, trips, or matches, but not seeing all my friends everyday is also dismal.
For those of you who I have met, competed beside, and have created cherished memories with, I am eternally grateful for you. I am also thankful for those who are
responsible for my success, such as my coaches, my parents, as well as the Nandrups.
It’s been an honor competing for, and alongside the Rock Springs Tiger Tennis team, and I can’t wait to see where these experiences take me.