Tennis team implements bonding-focused mentality

Focusing on team building, the boys tennis team has become closer, practice by practice. The new coach has pushed for team building because of the positive effect it brings.


**Swinging hard…***Reaching for a hit, sophomore Clark Van de Water focuses on the ball before he makes connection. “Even the smallest flaw in your hit can cause you to lose the point,” Van de Water said. Photo by Matthew Van de Water*

Wrapping up their season, the boys tennis team is sentimental but glad to have grown together. Team bonding and friendship has been a highlight of their season.
Tennis coach James O’Neill requires the beginning or end of each practice to consist of a team activity.
“The coach is really big on us doing everything as a team together,” sophomore Jared Archer said.
The strong and supportive friendships with teammates created through practices are very important to the players.
“I like interacting with other people, building relationships with the other guys and trying to create friends, not just for tennis but lifelong,” Archer said.
Spending time with friends during practices is a highlight for sophomore Josh Antill.
“I like the kids on the team. I have a lot of friends and I just like hanging out with them at practice,” Antill said.
Bonds between the players are important to their coach, as well. A focus on trust and positive relationships is a goal of O’Neill’s as he continues to coach the team.
“I’m still trying to build a culture of success, but camaraderie to try to get them interested in each other. [It’s] not just taking part in your own matches but taking pride in the school, the team’s results,” O’Neill said.
Archer agrees that the strong relationships being created and to be created between players are important.
“The goal is, besides winning, to have a strong relationship with the rest of the guys,” Archer said. “There’s a lot of great guys on the team, and they’re all super nice and supportive of one another.”
Matches and team bonding create an environment that the players will take things from as they go along in life.
According to senior Stephen Butler, something he has learned from joining the team this year is “a lot of preparation yields good results.”
Matches require endurance and strength.
Archer does cardio on the side, running on a treadmill for about half an hour in order to work up the endurance needed to potentially play a two hour match.
“The other day, we had a doubles team that had been playing two hours and they only threw two sets,” O’Neill said.
The length of matches which are best of three sets, depends on the other player’s style and skill, according to Archer.
“The best way to train and get better at tennis is to play practice matches against people who either match or exceed my skill level,” sophomore Clark Van de Water said.
According to Butler, practices start off with a team jog either around the courts or school then lead into team stretches.
After that, they warm up with short court, only using the service boxes in the tennis court, in order to get loose. Then, they do drills, working on different shots and conclude practice with games in order to get more “gameplay experience.”
This is O’Neill’s first year coaching the tennis team, though he has coached school sports for the past 25 years, including football, basketball, cross country and junior high track and field.
“The whole newness of it is a challenge for me but kind of invigorating and all that, too,” O’Neill said.
Starting with a week-long preseason in March, boys tennis lasts for around two months, until the end of April. They practice every school day besides the days they have matches and are off on Sundays. Saturdays are optional.
The school team has matches against other schools until the postseason in May when they have “exclusive” tournaments.