Why I Play – By Caroline Hall

Tennis has a different meaning to everyone. For high school player Caroline Hall, it’s all about the people she met along the way.

Ad-In. I am one point away from clinching my final match and experiencing an undefeated season. I adjust my strings, spin the racquet in my hand and crouch into ready-position. My opponent serves and the point begins.

After rallying for what seems like an hour, I smash a forehand down the line and the match is over. Within seconds, I hear roaring applause and people chanting my name. I turn around and look at the 20 girls sitting on the bench behind my court, all with wide smiles and genuine excitement.

This is what makes high school tennis exceptionally different. When given the chance, a sport that so often focuses on individuals transforms into one for an entire team.

Whether I am winning or losing, I am not alone. I am surrounded by the girls playing on the courts next to me and the ones cheering me on. I do not measure my high school tennis career by the number of wins, but instead by the moments that I will cherish for years to come. Singing on the bus to away matches, laughing during indoor practice in the school gym and friendships developed are the things I will take away from my four years. For me, tennis became more than just a sport.

Tennis became an escape from the long hours of rigorous studies in biology and physics, cramming for AP exams and trying to stay out of all the drama of high school. The moment I step onto the courts it is “game – set – match.” I can rip forehands cross-court to a freshman teammate or rally against my coach with music filling the air. In a school segregated by grade, tennis practice mixes all of us together.

Because of tennis, I became friends with girls from all different grades that I never would have met otherwise. One of my first days as a high school freshman, I remember being scared to death to enter the school and walk down that huge hallway. After preseason in August, I developed friendships with upperclassmen who assured me that I would be just fine. As I walked through the doors on that first day of school, I immediately saw my team captain. She walked right up to me and guided me toward my locker to help me get acclimated in my new school. I looked up at her and simply said “thank you,” knowing that one day I would “pay it forward.” Now, going into my senior year, I know how important it is to rise as a leader and reciprocate the help that I received.

Without the tennis team, high school would have been drastically different for me. I will never forget the friends and memories I made and will go forward having learned determination, perseverance and most of all, in a sport that is often thought of as individual, how great a team can be.

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