Sofia Duarte (8) takes her tennis racket out of her duffel bag. Photo by Sammie Seamon
The tennis team has always been a bit of an anomaly; it’s only available to middle school, it’s smack in the middle of major high school seasons like track and soccer, and we don’t get booming announcements every Monday about recent stats.
However, the tennis team is fully operative and has been competitive with other middle school teams since the beginning of the program with Coach Jill Dicuffa. Coaching duties were then handed to Coach Carey Warner three years ago.
The team has had to practice earlier this season; their competition season doesn’t start until a week after Spring Break, but practices had to be pushed up due to the construction of the new school. The nets on the present courts were suddenly taken down on February 22nd because they needed the courts for the groundbreaking ceremony, causing the tennis players to call parents and head home. Presently, the team is looking for a place to practice until the competition season starts.
“We started early, and we’ve been hoping to find an off-campus site that we can play at during the season,” Coach Warner said. “Maybe another school will let us use their courts a little bit. I’m pretty hopeful about Crockett, maybe we can start bussing out there once a week or something.”
Tennis courts are not part of the new building plan, so the possibility of a high school team is still low. The tennis team will have to find a permanent place to practice until courts are hopefully added to the new building in the future in order to keep the sport at Ann Richards.
“[The building of new courts] might have to be through another bond or Austin ISD budgeting allocation in the future,” Coach Warner said. “I know at one point there were talks about doubling the parking lot as a tennis court, which might be a good solution for us… or rooftop tennis courts!”
Most high schoolers are oblivious to what happens in tennis, and this is because Ann Richards has never had the facilities or the coaching staff to allow for a high school team. As a result, tennis lacks the school-wide attention that other sports receive, and the present players don’t have a high school tennis career at ARS to look forward to.
“We haven’t been able to promote it, and with two courts, we’ve really maxed out how many people can play at once. So we’ve always been at a deficit, from what I’ve seen,” Coach Warner said. “But I also know it’s a little discouraging for students to begin a sport and know that it doesn’t exist as a high school team.”
Eighth grader Sofia Duarte adds, “Since there is no high school tennis team here, I’m probably going to go back to my [non-school affiliated tennis] club after this year… I love it so much, it’s so much fun and it’s such a good workout.”
Sophomore varsity volleyball player Emme Veselka was on the tennis team in 7th and 8th grade, and believes that it has given her skills that have carried over into high school athletics.
“I think it’s helped me with hand-eye coordination, which is important for volleyball too,” Veselka said. “You know, when you’re playing singles, you learn how to take care of plays by yourself but also how to work with someone else.”
The players are hopeful that a middle school team will continue to exist next year despite the lack of courts on campus, and many expressed how important it is to them that they can continue to play the sport at Ann Richards.
“I was not very good at tennis when I joined the team, and once I joined the team, I developed friendships with people that I didn’t know. I have gotten much better since I joined,” Jen Castner (7) said. “It’s kind of like home away from home, being on the tennis team, like I know that sounds weird but it’s just really nice to be part of a team of people who you can relate with.”