MIDLOTHIAN — Even though the fall tennis season is in the books, the Jaguars are still bringing the game to the community and helping train younger generations for bright futures in Midlothian and throughout the United States.
On Dec. 9, Midlothian Heritage High School's junior varsity and varsity tennis teams hosted a tennis clinic at Longbranch Elementary School this during the school's weekly Genius Hour.
"As a brand new high school, the kids on the team last year have made it a point to be very aware of the type of culture they are building for the Heritage tennis program," said Lexi Yeado, the MHHS head tennis coach. "They know that the things they do now set the tone for the way things may be in the future. The way they behave in practice, during matches, after a win, and after a loss is taken very seriously because they know they are building a reputation for something greater than just themselves. Keeping that in mind, these kids work extremely hard in practice, support and push one another on the court and in the classroom. They also turn their attention to the community around them as well as to the young people who may soon follow in their footsteps."
Led by Josh Windham, Carson Lansdowne, Ben Helm, and Dustin Heitman, the Jaguars worked in four groups to run mini-drills and learning games for the children. As they rotated between four stations, they practiced hitting volleys, rolling rallies, groundstrokes and overheads.
Yeado said the younger players begin the sport, the faster they progress in skill and have the opportuinty to play at a collegiate level and open the door to scholarship opportunities. She noted that less than 10 percent of high school tennis players go on to play college tennis despite the plethora of opportunities to do so outside of high school.
College tennis has multiple talent levels, ranging from the big-time, full-scholarship Division I programs that compete yearly for the NCAA championship to the smallest Division III programs that welcome players with above-average ability. The University of Texas at San Antonio's Marian Wood Baird, Rosalind P. Walter and Dwight F. Davis Scholarships are an example of door openers for Ellis County tennis players.
The MWB Scholarship, available to high school seniors who have excelled academically and demonstrated achievements in leadership and participated extensively in an organized community tennis programs (such as theUSTA National Junior Tennis League (NJTL) or USTA Team Tennis), offers $3,750 per year for a total of up to $15,000 to cover costs of tuition, room and board and educational materials.
The Rosalind P. Walter Scholarship offers $2,500 per year for a total of up to $10,000 to cover costs of tuition, room and board and educational materials and the Dwight F. Davis Memorial Scholarship awards one male and female student $10,000 over a four-year period.
"At the NCAA Division I and ll levels, scholarships are offered for both male and female tennis players but Division III level programs don't offer tennis scholarships to men and women," Yeado said. "Other conferences — like the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) — do offer scholarships for both."
She said though the sport is a great opportunity, both she and her team also took the time to explain to their young charges the realities of life in college tennis.
"Like any other sport, tennis is tough at the college level," Yeado continued. "This is true, in a place like Texas, where there is so much talent to choose from. Knowing this is the reality of the college climate, I urged the kids to recognize that tennis is not life. Tennis is a part of life. The type of people these kids grow up to be is far more important than the win-loss record of their high school tennis team. That being said, the motivation that tells them to push to be great and not look for the temporary glory is the same thing that will make them successful in the classroom and the college circuit."
Teaching during mini clinic isn't the only effort Midlothian Heritages tennis athletes have made to impact their community, either. In September, they picked up trash along U.S. Highway 287 during a Keep Midlothian Beautiful volunteering event and a month later, some played in the "Children Helping Children" USTA tennis tournament in Plano that benefited research for the Children's Health Medical Center.
"They do so much without ever being told or prompted. That's the beauty in the character of these kids," Yeado said. "In November, the team cleaned 20 busses at the MISD bus barn, and they hosted their first-ever 'Teamsgiving' — a play on a Thanksgiving holiday event when they hosted a tennis clinic for kids in Walnut Grove Middle School tennis classes. It's the driving force that compels a high school student spent their free time helping others because they know they have the potential to develop winning characteristics and want the people around them to realize that potential."