Girls Tennis Co-Captain Nicole Lee ’22 gained interest in the sport once she learned about the combination of independence yet sense of community provided on a tennis team. However, the aspect of the game that particularly attracted her to the sport was the competitiveness.
According to Lee, her favorite part about tennis is the individuality of the sport, as well as the mental challenge that it provides.
“What personally grabbed my interest [in tennis] was the fact that you’re on the court alone and you have to work through that and be very mentally tough. What really continued that interest was that here at [Andover] it’s that interesting dynamic where it’s an individual sport, but you’re also on a team that completely supports you and has your back through everything. Playing at [Andover] is combining a team sport with an individual, and it gave me both of those aspects,” said Lee.
Despite enjoying playing alone, Lee also likes playing with her co-captain, Reimi Kusaka ’21 in doubles. Lee is 5-0 in singles this year, and she and Kusaka are 4-1as doubles partners.
“I truly enjoy doubles and have so much fun on the court playing with my fellow co-captain, Reimi Kusaka, so we’ve been playing together since my [Junior] year. [Doubles] is such a different game, it can be so much more fast paced, more dynamic, and just fun because you’re constantly communicating, constantly trying to use formations and new techniques.”
According to Elizabeth Zhang ’22, one of Lee’s greatest attributes as a leader of the team is her constant optimism and approachability.
Zhang said, “One attribute that Nicole has is that she’s always so positive. When you meet Nicole she’s so easy to talk to and she’s so bubbly all the time. Being a leader is about having a really positive attitude for the team to raise each other’s spirits.”
Before each match, Lee approaches each of her teammates and looks to raise everyone’s confidence before they take the court. According to Lee, supporting her teammates is an ongoing effort throughout the season.
“In terms of pep talks I try to check in with each player before they go on the court and reassure them to trust in their abilities and in themselves as players because they are all super strong and super talented players. I try to connect with each one of them to offer my support and some encouragement,” said Lee.
Lee’s interest in Andover began when she saw the positive and caring environment that her sister experienced at school. With her interest in Andover came a desire to play in a team atmosphere, according to Lee.
“My older sister went to Andover and she played on the [tennis] team as well. Seeing her be on a team that was so supportive and so unique that you have eight individual players, but you’re all working towards a common goal, that really sparked my interests, and made me want to be part of a team because I was missing that only having been playing for myself in the past, and also the community that Andover offers through sports and everything else,” said Lee.
According to Lee, when she tried out for the tennis team in her Junior year, she was pleasantly surprised to make the team. Lee attributes her earlier success to the confidence she plays with and the trust she places on herself.
“I was definitely not expecting [to make the team]; nothing is given, on any day you can win or lose, which makes that sport so interesting. I went in with confidence in tryouts at my freshman year, and just knowing to trust the way I play, and with the experience I had back home, I can do it, so I was fortunate enough to win all my matches during tryouts and make the team, but I definitely was not expecting or assuming that I would make the team,” said Lee.
While she began the season without the title, Lee officially became a co-captain near midseason this spring. According to Kusaka, Lee has made a swift transition from being a teammate to her new role as a co-captain.
“The fact that she was able to change her mindset from a team player to also being a captain, I think that in itself says a lot about her and her character. I think that she’s just a natural born leader, she cares for everyone and she always has even when she didn’t have that title as captain,” said Kusaka.
As a leader, Lee hopes to serve her teammates as a source of support throughout the remainder of the season.
“As a captain it’s always my goal to make every one of my teammates feel included and supported. I hope that I’m able to be a role model and someone that they can always turn to for support, both on and off the court, not only as a player but as a friend,” said Lee.