Tennis works to repeat success


Blake Becker

tennis-again-640x4121.jpgFor the past three years, the boys tennis team earned the title of state champions, an accomplishment Coach Ben Loeb and the rest of the team intend to repeat this year.
However, attaining a highly contested state title demands the maintenance of skill and commitment from not only the individual players but from the team as a whole.
Senior Alex Jones played a role in supporting the boys’ three state titles since his freshman year during the 2010 season, along with many of the upperclassmen during the time. Becoming a senior on the team this year modifies Jones’ role to require much more leadership on his part as a more experienced member of the team. Jones said advancing in the team as a senior as well as his rank as a varsity player brings important duties to his role, as Jones finds it his responsibility to assist younger players so they may continue the team’s legacy after he graduates.
“I have to watch what I do a little bit more because I’m a senior. I can’t be goofing around or all the others. Especially the freshman and sophomores will think that they can goof around, and I just don’t want to set a bad example,” Jones said. “I just don’t want to win state this year, I want to keep having the Rock Bridge tradition of winning state.”
The team aspect of tennis can be problematic for players first being introduced to a team, as the player goes from solely depending on themselves for victory to relying on other players in the team to push through as well. While adding a team oriented factor may be difficult for some, Loeb believes emphasizing introduction of new players to camaraderie is integral to advancing the skill level of not only the team but the individual player as well.
“I think in football and basketball, you grow up with them being team-oriented, while in tennis, you grow up like an island. It’s you against the world. Then you get a chance to be part of a team when you play high school tennis, or in some cases you might play on some different type of league team before you reach high school tennis, but for the most part, high school tennis is for many people, their first true lengthy opportunity to participate in a team sport,” Loeb said. “I think to the credit of the boys and girls that have played Rock Bridge tennis, that they have adapted into valuing the success of the team above themselves individually. And I think that’s part of the reason we’ve been very successful.”
This success also requires a player to transition from a friendly, social attitude to a competitive mindset when challenging teammates to advance in the team rank from either junior varsity to varsity or to climb into the varsity line up. Junior Harry Bozoian believes making this change is key when playing against fellow players and is a switch essential for competing in meets and competition.
“Five minutes you’ll be joking around, telling a story, and the next five minutes, you’ll be on the court trying to beat him, and you definitely have to play your own game and can’t worry about what other people are doing around you,” Bozoian said. “You have to stay focused on yourself and what you’re doing and usually that works out.”
For Loeb, having players with this trait is essential to the team’s continued success and defines past championships and winning seasons for the boys team. When the player competes, it all boils down to finding the balance between the team and the individual in order to come out on top, Jones said.
Although it may pose a challenge and takes skill and experience, Jones enjoys the time spent and effort in learning the sport.
“It is hard because it’s so individual, but at the same time, it’s still a team, so you play for your team, but it’s all on you,” Jones said. “It’s just you out there.”
By Blake Becker