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Senior Stories Coaches Comments From JTT Nats
Junior Team Tennis is about just that: a team. When the ATA Dream Team brought home a National Championship this past week, they brought it home for the entire program to share, because the entire program had a hand in the success.
Please find below the stories of the seniors on the ATA Dream Team. Below that, Dream Team Head Coach Kendall Brooks offers commentary about each of her team members.
ATA College Prep Senior Brooke Hughes:
Winning the JTT 18U Advanced title this year was absolutely amazing! I’ve had the opportunity to be part of this since I first started playing in the 14s age group. Of all the things I’ve accomplished since I started playing tennis this is honestly one of the most rewarding. Playing for something much bigger than just you is so different. For Josh and I to lead the team to this title in our last year is a memory I will never forget. Not just the wins and losses or the titles over the past 4 years but Jeff’s Valverde imitation, our impromptu dance parties, and our infamous sing-a-longs in the van.
I’ve learned so much from this experience. I’ve learned how to handle the pressure of playing for a team, which is really different. No one wants to be the person on the team that doesn’t pull their weight and causes you to lose as a team. It’s a much different feeling than just playing for yourself which is what most of my tennis life has been about. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to experience team tennis because I think it will really help me next year playing on a college team. It’s also taught me a lot about leadership and mentoring the younger athletes while setting an example for them to represent ATA and follow in our footsteps. Our motto this year was “The DREAM works when the TEAM works” which is so true in team tennis. Finding ways to make the team work with different personalities, different game styles, different strengths and weaknesses, making decisions for the good of the team is what team tennis is all about. If you can find a way to do that you will be successful as a team. I will definitely take a lot with me to college next year from these experiences. I am so proud to have been part of the team to bring back the National title to ATA again this year. It’s a feeling I’ll always cherish.
ATA College Prep Senior Josh Hagar:
No experience compares to junior team tennis. The team aspect differs from that of any other event during the year, including zonals or some of the other national team events. While the format of these higher-level team national tournaments is similar, JTT always seems to be much more fun. The great memories, most of them coincidentally made off the court, are what make team tennis so special; it is about the people who are there supporting you. Very rarely do I walk away from a JTT event and have first memories be about the matches I played. I most often remember the times when my teammates crazily and/or obnoxiously cheered, or when somebody danced out of excitement of victory, etc. The on-court experiences come secondary.
That being said, the off-court experiences translate to the court. It is no coincidence that the ATA Dream Team has placed top 3 in the nation the last four years. When it is all on the line in the clutch, it is an advantage to know you have the support of your teammates and friends. And I’m not going to lie, it definitely wears on your opponents when your team goes ballistic.
That is what team tennis is really about. Contrary to common tennis competition, JTT is not individual. Even if you are physically the only one on the court, the whole team is playing. Typically, whichever team applies that group presence comes through victorious. That is why I love JTT, and why I believe every junior tennis player should try it. This event is also about as close to college competition as it gets, even closer than zonals. The reason is the same: every one of your teammates is supporting and you have a personal relationship with each before you attend the event.
As a senior, I would like to thank all of my teammates and coaches that I have played with in my JTT years. Without a doubt this is one of the best weekends of the year and that is all thanks to y’all. I am glad to have gone out with a national gold, and I wish the future Dream Teamers good luck in upholding the ATA tradition of excellence.
ATA College Prep Senior Andrew Parks:
Being a part of the ATA Dream Team and winning the USTA Junior Team Tennis Nationals is a great experience for me before my next step to college tennis. The team camaraderie was special because we passionately cheered each other on, and brought intense and positive energy constantly. Playing in the National Championships gave me an extra boost of confidence in myself that I will bring with me through the rest of my junior tennis career and college tennis career. A moment I will never forget is clinching the national championships on center court with hundreds of people watching, the USTA Photographers taking photos after every point, and TV cameras filming. It was new for me because I have never been put in that situation before in my tennis career. I am thankful to be given the opportunity to be in that situation and play mixed doubles with a longtime friend. This will always be a special moment for me because my sister and I were on the same team as national champions. I appreciate Coach Kendall and ATA for giving me the opportunity to play for the ATA Dream Team.
Coach Kendall Brooks, on her players:
Josh Hagar- Josh dominated all weekend. He was our rock. I could confidently put him out there and know that he was going to get the job done each time. He had some HUGE wins margin-wise that helped us to really get ahead in games and secure some team wins early on. Without him, we simply could not have won. He went 5-0 in singles, losing only 7 games all weekend!!!
Brooke Hughes- Brooke was our iron-woman all weekend. She had to double up and play two matches each round. I really depended on her to get us two wins or a lot of games each time she went out there. She was "wow-ing" people in the finals on Sunday and throughout the tournament. Her experience at JTT Nationals helped clinch the win for us in mixed doubles in the final. She went 4-1 in singles and 3-2 in mixed.
Liam Leddy- I was so proud of Liam this weekend. It was most important to me for him to get to contribute to this team because he has been a long-time Junior Team Tennis contributor at various levels over his career at ATA. He deserved a chance as a senior just as much as everyone else, and putting him in doubles I never had to doubt my decision. He brought amazing energy and focus, and he and Charlie were a HUGE part of our championship. He and Charlie went 3-2 in boys doubles, and got a lot of games for us.
Charlie Shin- Charlie was awesome this weekend. He was so excited for a chance to go to Nationals, and he filled his role perfectly. Playing boys doubles all weekend with Liam was not what he expected I don't think, but he embraced it and got some big wins for the team.
Meredith Parks- I put a lot of pressure on Meredith and Meghan both before we started the tournament, saying that girls doubles can really make or break the team match. They really stepped up and played well under that pressure, pulling off two tiebreaker wins at critical moments. Meredith's intensity and desire to win helped fuel their fire all weekend. Her and Meghan went 4-1 in girls doubles.
Meghan O’Malley- As a last minute sub for this team, I wouldn't have traded Meghan for anyone this weekend. She was AMAZING in the doubles matches, playing solid and confident against girls who were consistently older than her. I'm more excited that she got this experience, as she will likely be a member of this team for the next few years and will quickly become one of our leaders.
Andrew Parks- I was so excited that Andrew got a chance to clinch the win for us. He brought an unbelievable amount of energy and team support all weekend. He really seemed to thrive in the team atmosphere, and believe me when I say that we all got a chance to see a new side of Andrew Parks. He can dance and sing with the best of them, and can cut loose when he lets himself. Again, he took on his role as our mixed doubles player without complaint or hesitation. With his focus and relentless effort paired with Brooke's dominance over any girl on court, they were an extremely tough mixed doubles team.