2015……almost March………and the high school tennis season is upon us next week!
This is my favorite time of the year for me to watch tennis, I was a high school coach of tennis a few years back, for a handful of years, and the best part of it is I just simply enjoy(ed) watching kids play, and compete hard. What I really like about it in particular, is seeing kids of all levels, being able to compete in a team format, in a relative equal rating of head to head competition.
Let me explain about the equal part in terms of head to head…..it’s not always exactly that, but in high school tennis, there is a ladder. 12 kids comprise a varsity match, hence you have a ladder of 1 thru 12. The ladders, school by school, are designed to pit each players relative level on the ladder, against the same at the other school. There is a little craft work in how coaches can move around lineups, but by and large, the 1’s play each other, the 2’s play each other……and so on.
The neat thing too about high school tennis, is for the kids that play year round high level USTA tournament tennis, they now get a chance to play team style tennis. The grind of tournaments is a lonely vocation and it’s always fun for me to see tournament level kids, really enjoying the play of team style, and mentoring to a degree, the kids of lessor skills who probably don’t play year round. Best part of this team concept though is a point is equal in high school tennis, whether you are the number 1 player, or the number 12 player, win the match, it’s one point!
When schools play each other head to head, it’s called a Dual Match. And what is really interesting is seeing how kids react to the pressure of their teammates, and also to the match at hand, that each of them play. I’ve watched experienced players (tournament/USTA level players) get upset by non-tournament players many a time…….it’s quite interesting to see how the impact of cheering and just being high school kids, puts a colorful flavor on the outcome of matches……most of the time, the experienced players will prevail, but every now and then, the part time player(s), inspired, cheered on by the team, can reach up and snatch a victory!
Which gets me to the last year of a great run…..son number 2, his senior year. Big bro got his 4 year run, and now lil bro is on his last quarter run. Little bro is really really good at this game, but this year opens with some challenges, a dislocated L5, and a bulging disc, a shocking discovery about a month ago. The season doesn’t appear to be at risk yet, however……..he has a tough path to navigate. More concerning for me, is his long term back issues, and what happens in 20 years for him down the road. I guess time will tell on all counts for him and his tennis.
I’ll end with this, there are a ton of schools all around, and if you happen to be by one or a nearby park, see two large groups of kids, color coded shirts……you’ll have the chance to watch a dual match. Step on over, watch it, and just revel in the delight, anguish, and competitiveness these kids all put on the line for their school, their teammates, and for themselves. I know I will, and it always puts a smile on my face.