When she began playing sports as a youngster, around the age of seven, one of the first sports Thea Rabman tried was softball. Despite being good, it didn’t take because, as Rabman says, it was too slow.
That’s when tennis entered the picture.
“My dad wanted me to try out tennis, so I started playing with a couple of friends,” said Rabman. “And then when I started doing some different groups without them, and began training by myself with my coach, that’s when I realized it was something I was good at.”
Rabman was a natural and quickly developed her skills for the sport, beginning her training at Sportime, where she continues to play to this day.
“I’ve been at Sportime since I started playing when I was about seven-years-old,” said Rabman, who works with Greg Lumpkin at Sportime’s Syosset facility, and with Jay Harris and Lauren Cloonan at Sportime Roslyn. “There is such a wide range of players who train there, and that helps a lot. You can play kids who are above you, and those who you are a little better than, and you learn a lot about your game by playing against different players of various skill levels.”
Lumpkin, who has worked with a number of top junior players over the years, says Rabman has a work ethic that is second to none.
“Thea is one of the most determined and hardest-working young players I have ever worked with,” said Lumpkin. “She pushes herself every day, and has made steady progress in all areas of her game as a result. Thea’s mental toughness truly sets her apart. She has incredible spirit and raises her level whenever facing adversity.”
For the past two seasons, Rabman has been the leader of the Port Washington Girls Tennis team, anchoring the Vikings to a 32-match winning streak and a Long Island Championship during that span.
“I really enjoy the experience of high school tennis, and going up against older girls,” she said. “It’s definitely taught me to be more disciplined on the court and learn how to craft points.”
Photo Credit: Rabman Family
Despite still only being in eighth grade, Rabman has played first singles for Port Washington each of the last two seasons.
“Playing first singles as a seventh and eighth grader, Thea has had to go up against much older and stronger opponents every match,” said Port Washington Head Coach Shane Helfner. “She is fearless and has a natural ability to plan out a point and change the pace of her shots. Her tournament experience has helped her gain a competitive edge and she helped guide us to a Long Island Championship and two consecutive years as Conference I Champions. She sets an example for the rest of the team and helps motivate our other players to always try to elevate their game to the next level.”
Playing against older and stronger girls is something Rabman has been used to, both in high school and in tournament play, and has resulted in her possessing a strong defensive and return game.
“I think my defense is the strongest part of my game. Playing up in competition against girls older than me has forced to play on the run a lot,” Rabman said. “This has allowed the defensive part of my game to really develop.”
Her fall season has been packed with tournaments and she has fared quite well in them, including winning titles at the L1B Sportime Randall’s Island September Challenger, L1 September Championships at CourtSense Bogota and the Eastern Sweet 16 at New York Tennis Club in singles, and capturing a doubles title at both the Empire Cup Nationals at Cornell University and the Empire Cup Nationals at Sportime Schenectady.
Being able to win big tournaments like those is the result of a lot of hard work, as well being able to learn from the tournaments she didn’t win.
“My dad always tells me to take notes at tournaments, but that never happens,” Rabman joked. “But I do have a routine I usually do before matches and make sure to do at each tournament, like talking to my friends which helps me relax and relieve some of the stress of playing. And you try to make sure you learn from your mistakes each match, and improve from one tournament to the next.”
Still just in eighth grade, there is plenty of tennis left in store for Rabman. While she has won many notable junior tournaments already, she does have one specific goal for this coming year.
“I’d like to win a Gold Ball from a Super National,” said Rabman. “That would be so cool.”
In order to do so, Rabman knows she needs to continue working on aspects of her game to develop into the consistent player she wants to be. Her main focus in recent years has been the development of her serve, something she says she has seen a lot of improvement in.
“I’ve been working a lot on my serve, and that has really been my main focus over the last seven months,” said Rabman. “I’ve definitely seen a lot of improvement which is good. And just making sure I am more consistent … that’s a big thing for me and something I want to improve on.”
As Rabman’s already polished game continues to improve and she gets older, there is no telling just how good a player she can be. She plans on playing for Port Washington again next fall, when she begins her freshman year of high school, and hopes to continue to build on her tournament success.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.