Commentary: There Is Not Only an “I” in Tennis

On the tennis court, I am almost always alone in a match. During my matches, however, whenever my teammates aren’t on the courts themselves, they are cheering me on, so I never really feel alone on the court.

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the three most popular team sports, soccer, baseball, and basketball attracted 1.7 million, 1.2 million, and 1 million players in the United States, respectively. On the other hand, tennis, an individual sport, attracted 200,000 players during the same period.

There is a common belief that people who play independent sports play only for themselves, and while it is true that team sports directly emphasize the power of synergy, I believe that teamwork, sportsmanship, and lasting friendships are also developed through independent sports.

Players of individual sports may not be competing on the same court, field, or track as their teammates, but they are still competing alongside each other. Throughout my tennis experience, I have been a part of a team culture of team workouts, late-night practices, cheers, and dinners.

People sometimes look at individual sports and think that each of us are competing for individual scores, but each person’s victory contributes towards the total score of the team. My victory on the court alone does not bring about a team victory. I cheer all my teammates on because their victory is just as critical as mine.

Additionally, independent sports that are played at school may divide people into seeds and rank them against the other team members, but in my experience, this has not fostered unhealthy competition. It is a growing and learning process, and in the past, I have always looked up to the leadership of our team’s top players. They ran drills and set examples for the rest of the team; they were people I aspired to be.

Though tennis is considered an “individual” sport, playing tennis has helped me develop teamwork because I have learned that my victory alone in a match will not guarantee my team’s victory. Every player matters, and this has driven me to cheer on my teammates, celebrate their triumphs, and offer encouragements when their matches are tough.

As Spring Term approaches, students are filling out course request sheets, including selecting a sport. If you are unsure of which sport to play, or would like to try a new sport, consider trying out one of the independent sports offered at Andover like cycling, track and field, golf, or tennis.  I think it is important to not let the terms “individual” or “independent” sport discourage us, because regardless of which sport one chooses to play, teamwork will be a major part of it; that is the beauty of playing a sport.