While growing up I’ve participated in a wide variety of different team sports. My favorite part about playing sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, and hockey were the closeness formed within each new team. The emotions that came with winning and losing had an effect that amplified the strength of friendships founded during the season. However, once the season ended, the team’s close relationship began to fade no matter how strong our ties were.
This was the case for every sports team I was a part of, that is, until I joined the tennis team my sophomore year. Since I already knew almost everyone who was on the team the awkward “getting to know each other stage” that accompanies most new teams was practically nonexistent. Even though I was only a back-up and my prime focus for the season was to obnoxiously cheer, I was happy to have had any role in a state winning tennis team.
When the season finally came to a close, I half expected that history would repeat itself and the friendships made over the course of my vocally strenuous tennis season would eventually fade. But even though our season was over it didn’t mean that we stopped training. Every day we would prepare ourselves for next year, using each other as encouragement the whole time.
Every day after school and almost my entire summer was spent practicing with the same group of guys that made up the tennis team. This nonstop tennis routine of constant practice continued throughout my remaining two years on the team.
Then came my senior year and after a long and physically taxing season we won our fourth consecutive state championship title. But before we made our journey back home, someone asked me what makes our team so good. I could have said the hours of hard work, our drive to be the best we can be, or having an amazing facility loaded with all the resources we need. Each one of those answers would have been true. But the major source of our success that gives us an advantage over our competition is due to how close the relationship is within the team.
When I first started playing competitive tennis in middle school, I was inaugurated into an intimidating group of players who had been developing their tennis game all their lives. Since then we’ve grown and improved alongside one another. Over time, more people have joined the group until our entire team was in the same group.
There is one member of the team that I’ve grown especially close to over the past few years, however. His name is Terry Schwartzkopf. I know him as more than just a teacher and a coach, but also as a mentor and a best friend. I think that everyone on the team would agree that Schwartzkopf goes above and beyond as a coach and a friend.
Even though tennis is typically viewed as being an individual sport, we are one of the strongest teams on and off the court. We support each other after a loss and celebrate together after a win. We cheer each other on in tough matches. We motivate each other to reach our full potential. And I’ve never been more proud to have played with this group of guys.