By Theresa Stanley
Editor’s Note: Theresa Stanley played tennis at Sherwood (Oregon) High School from 2007 to 2010. Tragically, shortly after writing this article, Theresa died as a result of a horseback riding accident – one day before departing for college. In her senior season at Sherwood, Theresa was team captain and was voted most inspirational player by her teammates after the 2010 season. Her family has set up a scholarship fund in her name that will award a scholarship to a worthy Sherwood High School tennis player each year.
Many parents encourage their kids to become involved in sports. While some do so out of a need to live vicariously through the lives of their children, most do it out of love. As teenagers we have been told on numerous occasions that sports are good for us, teaching us life lessons as well as keeping our minds and bodies healthy.
Oftentimes we choose to ignore our parents’ advice out of either sheer stubbornness or because we think we know all the answers…which most of the time we do. However, looking back, I realize how right my parents were and how much athletics have proven to transform my life.
As a youngster, my parents enrolled me in t-ball, soccer and basketball camps. I took piano lessons and was even involved in gymnastics for several years. I skipped around from sport to sport until I finally fell in love with tennis my freshman year of high school. I knew my high school years were a great time to explore different interests before heading off to college and I originally joined the team just to have fun and never even imagined how much of an impact that decision would eventually make.
My freshman year I was a perfectionist, obsessed with my studies and rather shy. I had a very small number of close friends from middle school and a few other acquaintances. Meeting other people was difficult for me and I was not even totally convinced I should go out of my way to make more.
Luckily, tennis, like other sports, has the ability to bring together students who normally might never associate with each other. Every day in school you pass by hundreds of your fellow students, a vast majority of whom you will never learn anything about aside from their name. Tennis allowed me to make friends with a variety of students – both in my grade and the upper grades, and many of whom I have maintained contact with and will maintain contact with throughout college and beyond. I discovered it is difficult to remain shy when you are involved in a team and working together toward the same goals.
In addition to meeting new friends, I formed some of my fondest and favorite memories from high school from the times I spent with my team. Being on a team is more than just practicing with other people, watching them compete, and then competing yourself; it is about learning together, contributing and becoming something better than yourself. When you are unable to play, watching and cheering on your teammates can be as beneficial for you as it is for them. Not only can you learn from their mistakes, gain knowledge from their experience and become inspired, but you also motivate them. Many times, nicknames and inside jokes are a result from cheering on teammates.
Bus rides to and from away games have also proven to be some of the best bonding moments between team members. Playing 20 questions, belting out songs on the radio and sharing most embarrassing secrets are all highlights from my experiences. Though sometimes I feel trading secret sister gifts can be more detrimental to my physical health from all the junk food, my mental and emotional health received a large boost.
While tennis not only helped me improve my social life, it also assisted my grades. Time management became a necessary skill, which I soon mastered. Balancing school, studying, practices, matches, jobs and family time can sometimes be a challenge.
Many of the members of our tennis team are also heavily invested in many other activities, whether they are additional athletics, clubs or volunteering. However, this other involvement only serves to demonstrate the level of importance students place on sports. While leaving fifth period early for matches can be a blessing for those classes you can’t stand, and a nuisance in classes where you actually miss learning material, it is always worth it, no matter what the outcome of the match. While I still tend to be overly concerned with my grades, my involvement in athletics has only improved my desire for learning.
It was my opinion that teaching was one of the least appreciated professions. However, after four years of a high school sport, I have added coaching to that list. Coaches volunteer their own time and efforts, as well as their families’ time, for a position where most of the time they will be criticized, argued with and complained about.
Dealing with 10 teenage girls can often be a daunting task, not to mention 35. Nothing will ever please every person, whether it is where to stop to eat after a match, or who or what position they will be playing in the match.
In my experience good coaches are patient and kind, but also willing to push their athletes. Excellent coaches do all of the aforementioned and also genuinely care for their students outside of their sport. They desire to help their athletes not only in improving their game, but also their studies and their life. This makes coaches some of the most amazing people you will ever meet in your life. Some coaches are only concerned with whether or not the team wins, but in many cases you will get to work with amazing people who care about you and want you to succeed in your future life, both inside and outside of sports.
As the end of my high school career approaches, and I reflect upon how I have changed throughout the years, I think “transform” is a more appropriate term to describe what has happened in my life. Deciding to become involved in tennis was truly a catalyst for my transformation from a teenager into an eager young adult ready to embark on her next adventure. The shy and studious girl is still there, but she now realizes how much she is surrounded by friends, supported by coaches and teachers, and loved by family.