Audio Interview and Article by Kristie Mak, Concordia Applied Journalism
Video image by Claire C., Concordia Applied Journalism, Student Media Services
Tennis is a mental game.
Unlike other sports, tennis requires more than just athleticism. It challenges you to think on your feet, and improvise when things don’t go as planned. This is why tennis players require so much technical practice. They need to train themselves to be mentally prepared when they’re put in a tough situation, such as match points or deuces. This is why Jaden M., a sophomore at Concordia International School Shanghai, decided to become a one-season athlete.
Jaden is the number two singles player for Concordia’s varsity tennis team. This was a season, says Jaden, in which "I learned a lot and I would definitely do it again if I had to". He fought his way to being one of the top six players in the APAC boys singles division bracket. While this achievement may have seemed effortless to many who do not watch tennis, earning a place in APAC takes genuine commitment.
In order to serve a perfect ace or hit a perfect cross court shot, tennis players have to put in hours and hours of practice. For them, perfection is the only way to win a match. This is why Jaden chooses to spend his time off-season chasing down yellow fuzzy balls instead of gaming with his friends. His typical schedule consists of fitness on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“By fitness,” Jaden clarified, “I mean hitting the gym or working on cardio.”
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he either has tennis lessons with his coach or hits with a practice partner. At practices, Jaden always works around a theme. For example, he could be spending half an hour hitting shots down the line. Even more, Jaden might use a whole basket of balls to hit winners cross court. In other words, his coach doesn’t cut him any slack. Jaden puts every ball away with an intention. In order to apply the tactics he’s practiced, Jaden plays UTR matches on Saturdays, which entails a total of two hours driving time by car.
Still, with reference to his jam-packed schedule, he insists that “it’s fine... it’s not that bad.”
As tireless as this may seem, Jaden assures me that all the training is there for a purpose. He wants to play college tennis. Specifically, he’s looking to become a Trojan or Bruin, referring to teams from USC and UCLA respectively.
Dedicated tennis athletes, from left to right: UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald, Jaden Mak, and USC's Brandon Holt (images: Daily Bruin, Harry Mak, southerncaliforniatennis.org)
However, Jaden is careful not to get ahead of himself. “They have a very strong tennis team,” he admits, “but a strong tennis team means it’ll be very hard to get in, so you never know. I’ll have to work very hard.”
As for whether he thinks he’s on the right path, he remains uncertain. “I just have to trust in the process and hope that it leads me to where I want it to be,” he says.
Although this tennis plan is relatively well set, being alone in this commitment does have its downsides. For Jaden, it meant quitting school soccer and having to deal with the researching of the college tennis recruitment process on his own. He explains, “[m]y parents don’t really know much about how to make someone a player, or how to get into college sports, so doing this on my own has been tough, but I have coaches to help me, and I can always look online.”
Having been through the bumpy parts of his one season plan, he advises students looking to become a one season athlete to think it through. He says, “[i]f you’re really looking to be really really good at a sport, I recommend you be a one season athlete.” For those who are simply looking to enjoy sports, he recommends them to do all three seasons.
At the end of the day, it's decisions like these that indicate whether one simply likes a sport or truly loves it.
Kristie M. is an avid tennis player and a student of Concordia Applied Journalism.