Looking Back: What High School Tennis Meant to Me
For those who don’t know, high school tennis is vastly different from high school football, basketball, and baseball, at least in terms of college implications. The best high school wide receivers, point guards, and pitchers all over the country are ranked and touted by college recruiters from Division 1 colleges. How about tennis, you ask? Well, I say, it’s pretty much the opposite. Performance on one’s high school tennis team usually means little to a college coach. Whether you’re recruited or not to a high level college team depends mainly on your individual results from junior tournaments. Ability levels on a high school team can range from beginner to advanced. From my experience, I would say that a majority of advanced level players (highly ranked nationally or locally) choose not to participate in high school tennis. The reality is that many train at academies day in and day out or skip high school tennis to play more junior tournaments, with the level of schooling varying widely. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want to do, if that’s what floats your boat, if that gets you to the professional level, I’m all for it. I’ll admit, that’s what often what it takes to make it on the pro tour.
I’m never the one to brag or boast, but I’ll admit that from the age of 10, I did well in tournaments and achieved a high national ranking until college came around. My successful junior career eventually led me to Princeton University Men’s Tennis and Coach Glenn Michibata, a former #1 doubles player in the world. But I couldn’t have made it that far without my high school tennis experience. No chance.
So why did I choose to play for my Torrey Pines High School Falcons? Not only did I get to represent my school, win a team championship, and put TPHS Tennis on my resume, I gained many invaluable friendships that continue to last today and will continue forever. I felt part of a special team. Part of a band of brothers. Part of a family. Sure, some of us were good, some bad, some intermediate, but the common goal to win a team championship brought us all together. All of a sudden, we were all the same.
Aside from our actual team results, the friends I made and the things we did together defined my experience as a member of TPHS Varsity Tennis. After practices, we would play football on the field until the sun set. Then, it was basketball. Then tennis baseball. Then we would play before and after practice! We pushed ourselves on the court, and had fun off the court. We hung out on the weekends, and sometimes that included more football. Maybe laser tag. Maybe poker. But, I will never forget the day we won our division’s team champsionship; after taking the bus back to school, we stepped off the bus, proceeded to the gym, somehow brought the nets down, and played bball.
Whatever we did, I was immersed in it. I forgot about all my junior tournaments coming up. That’s bad isn’t it? For some, it may be. But for me, I actually felt more relaxed, knowing I had friends to lean back on, a team to play for. I was so eager sometimes for that next road match that I remember once considering to drive home from Palm Springs during the Easter Bowl, one of the 4 US junior “grand slams”, board the bus with the team, play against a mediocre Mission Hills team, and drive back east for my next match.
High school tennis. It prepared me for college. It prepared me for Princeton Men’s Tennis. It prepared me for life.
And that’s what high school tennis meant to me.