How playing on your high school team can help your game.
For the April 19 edition of the Observer, I wrote a feature story about Spruce Creek’s tennis coaches, Todd Palmer and his daughter Bailey Palmer. But during our interview, one thing in particular stuck out to me: that there were excellent tennis players at Spruce Creek who didn’t play on the school’s team.
At least for a lot of the individual sports — golf and tennis the most prominent — this scenario is common.
The argument for it is that playing on a high school team is a waste of time. The competition may not be as stiff. The coaches might not be able to teach as well as a private coach. Essentially, for some who want to play a sport in college, they feel like playing on the high school team won’t help get them there.
Yes, it’s hard to replicate the competition an athlete may face in a USTA match or AJGA golf tournament (the highest leagues for junior tennis and junior golf, respectively) in a high school match. But to say that an athlete can’t benefit from playing on his or her school’s team is a shame — and, quite frankly, not true.
Take Bailey Palmer, Spruce Creek’s girls coach, and her twin sister, Ragan Palmer, a soon- to-be-coach for the Hawks, for example. They started playing competitive tennis in eighth grade, joined the high school team, had minimal experience in individual tournaments and still managed to play Division II tennis.
In addition, playing on your high school team may not always prepare you for top-level competition, but it can help you understand what it’s like to be part of a team, to think outside of one’s self — something that can be difficult to do in individual sports.
I’m not saying tournaments and personalized instruction are a bad things. I encourage it for those who are serious about their sport. All I’m saying is you don’t have to look so far away — and you don’t have to spend so much — to benefit your game.