Amanda Lerner (pictured right) with Roslyn teammate Emily Wivietsky (pictured left) at a high school tennis charity event
I think I speak on behalf of all high school tennis players when I say that going into this school year, tennis season seemed like the light at the end of the pandemic-created tunnel. I have always viewed tryouts as some sort of rite of passage, knocking myself out and practicing vigorously throughout the summer in hopes of being able to earn a spot on the team.
The usual excitement for the fall season was even more prominent this year after being stuck inside for months. Yet with its last-minute cancellation, we were all left disappointed and longing for the fun and competitive environment that we cherish each year.
Roslyn, being the competitive town that it is, did everything they could to make school sports work. When they alerted the parents that the girls’ season would be rescheduled for March, it felt like music to my ears. But the flood of joy was accompanied by the uncertainty of what was to come with a tryout being held on snowy courts and amid a pandemic.
The whole process was different right from the beginning when we had a Zoom meeting to discuss requirements and scheduling. We were told that there would be limited interactions between players when off the court, and that we were all required to receive a negative COVID-19 test before playing.
There was definitely a small wave of fear with not knowing what we were signing up for. Nobody knew what this season was going to look like, and we were left hoping that it would still be a beneficial experience no matter what came out of it.
A shockingly small number of girls attended the meeting which was a change from the previous year’s tryouts. The smaller amount of girls did not alleviate any kind of pressure, however. Many of us had not been able to play since the summer with many parents being worried to send their kids to practice on indoor courts.
I was sick with the virus for three months and did not get back onto my feet until less than a month before tryouts. This added a whole new layer of stress to the situation as I didn’t know how I, or any of my peers, were going to perform. The normally wide range of preparation amongst the players was seemingly widened even further. Compared to the usual feeling of having two months’ worth of tennis to boost my confidence, I have never felt less prepared.
Packing my tennis bag was never a part of the routine that stood out to me, but this year, getting my stuff ready seemed like a whole new ball game. I am a notoriously light packer, whether it’s packing a suitcase for vacation or getting my bag ready for school. Yet layers upon layers were stuffed into my bag in preparation for cold weather, along with hand warmers and extra masks. It was kind of like a guessing game, trying to determine how much clothing we could layer on our bodies while still being able to move freely enough to play tennis. It felt more like I was preparing for the ski slopes rather than the tennis courts.
The weather definitely had an impact on our physical performances as well as our mentalities. Temperatures dipping to almost thirty degrees chilled our bodies with warm-ups acting as our saving grace. The mandatory masks also proved to be helpful, keeping our faces covered from the strong winds.
But once we stepped onto the courts and were assigned our first competitors, the adrenaline coursed through our veins and warmed us up more than the sun ever could. The familiar feeling of anxiety and excitement brought a sense of normalcy, and all feelings of being cold or frustrated about the situation quickly disappeared.
The passion seemingly doubled within the girls as the absence of a normal season reminded us of just how amazing it feels to be part of a team. We truly fit the cliché of not knowing what you have until it's gone and used this as a source of motivation. This sharp desire pushed everyone to play their hardest despite the discomfort.
The tryouts lasted for one week with multiple days having to be called off due to cold weather. The coaches revealed that not only would our records be determining whether or not we had made the team, but it would also have a large impact on the actual line-up for the matches. There was simply no time to waste, with our first match being the following week. The shortened season had clearly put a lot more pressure on not only the players but the coaches as well.
It is still extremely hard to tell exactly how this season will play out. Matches could easily be canceled, and one positive test could force our whole team into two-week quarantine. Yet these challenges are a small price to pay for the enriching experience of being part of a team, granting us the opportunity to feel “normal” again. My friends and I are so grateful for this chance to form new friendships, relieve stress, and get outside of the house.
A pandemic-season has brought tennis into a whole new light, upgrading it from a fun activity to a necessity. Participating in such a structured environment along with a chance to be more physically active has provided us with the normalcy that we have been craving since last March.
Amanda Lerner is an aspiring writer and a sophomore at Roslyn High School where she plays Junior Varsity Tennis.