Tiger Talk: an unexpected love for the game

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Welcome to #TIGERTALK – an exclusive SweetwaterNOW 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’ve been playing since I was three years old” or “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like this sport”. For me, my athletic 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 his near-perfect batting average. In hindsight, you’re not going to find one on a t-ball field, with kids who don’t even know where to run after hitting the ball, however, he could hope.

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Six or seven years later, I was training to be a pitcher, with an almost perfect batting average. You’d think I had everything I ever wanted, when in reality, I
was miserable. I spent my whole 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 divorced, I decided I never wanted to play sports again, and there was no one around to pressure me into doing it.


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From seventh grade until my first year, I refused to participate in any sport because everyone had played since they were young. It seemed almost impossible to have a fighting chance in anything, so I decided to avoid the sport altogether.

Still a need for sport

On April 17, 2021, I had a near-fatal car accident. Being hit from behind, then from the front, with cars going 50 miles an hour, I suffered a concussion with a broken nose and a back full of torn ligaments and tendons.

My life turned upside down in seconds, leaving me mentally and physically at an impasse.

After weeks and weeks of recovery, it was time to rebuild my strength. I have been recommended to participate in a sport or find a physical activity to do regularly. Looking at the fall sports calendar, the only sport I found interesting was tennis.

From the outside, tennis seems like a walk in the park. You hit the ball with the racket and it goes in. How hard could that be, right?

Bad.

Every ball I hit (if I could even hit it) would shoot up towards Mars or be thrown 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 at least a week, so I did.

Long story short, I didn’t improve much, but if I was 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 summer training nights were over, it was time for the proper season to begin. I showed up to my first practice and everyone was confused as to who I was. Usually the college side of the tennis team is the same people as last season minus the people who graduated, but I was there. Sure, I wasn’t the best of the bunch, but I was a competitor.

After a week of trials and training, I joined the university team.

Picture of SweetwaterNOW, Brayden Flack

Throughout my junior and senior seasons, I faced many challenges on and off the court. For my junior season, I came in with less than three months of experience and I was playing against people with over six years of experience. Even this year, I only had one year under my belt. Not only did it make a win impossible, but it made me feel like I couldn’t catch up. It felt like I was trying hard, it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be a successful player.

I would be lying if I told you that I got up and carried on. It was really demoralizing to see myself being destroyed by another team. Eventually I learned that all I could do was take one point, one game, and one set at a time. I can’t say I had the most successful season ever, but I was able to gain experience, which turned out to be crucial.

At the surface level, tennis appears to be a completely physical game. However, you would be surprised at the amount of mental toughness required to succeed. It is essential to constantly find holes in the other team’s strategy and place the ball where the opposing team will not reach. You need to be completely confident in every ball you hit and praise your partner simultaneously while remaining constantly aware throughout the duration of the point and relying solely on reaction time.

It sounded terrifying to me, but it was also exhilarating.

The hardest part of tennis, in fact, had nothing to do with tennis. Maintain a job of more than 20 hours per week, my grades in high school and the 16th credit
hours of college I was enrolled in, my relationships with others around me, tennis, and my mental well-being turned out to be the biggest challenge I’ve faced in a long time. I felt like I couldn’t drop the ball on anything, and quite honestly, that made me miserable. With all these different things that required complete balance, I didn’t have time to do anything other than these responsibilities.

Even though it was difficult, it was a sacrifice that I chose.

A sincere thank you

Tennis helped me find a community where competition is welcomed and seen as healthy. It serves as an escape for me to take my mind off things, relax and hit some balls.

As my senior season comes to an end, curiously, I find myself going through a lot of emotions. I never thought that I would be so upset by the end of a sports season. Not only the idea of ​​not having any more practices, trips or matches, but not seeing all my friends every day is also sad.

For those of you I have met, competed alongside, and created precious memories with, I am forever grateful. I am also grateful for those who are
responsible for my success, such as my coaches, my parents, as well as the Nandrups.

It was an honor to compete for and alongside the Rock Springs Tiger Tennis team, and I look forward to seeing where these experiences take me.


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