Andover Girls Tennis Co-Captain Nicole Lee ’22 picked up a racket for the first time at just three years old. Since then, she has played on the Andover Girls Varsity Tennis team for four years and has led the team as co-captain for two of the four.
According to Lee, her initial experiences with tennis were primarily focused on the individualistic side of the sport. After coming to Andover, however, she has learned to appreciate the relationships and camaraderie found within the tennis community.
“So I first started playing tennis around the age of three, but not competitively until I was eight. Initially, I really loved that it was an independent sport, that out there you kind of had no one but yourself in a weird way. And what keeps me coming back from more especially now playing at Andover is the team aspect, which is a big contrast to when I was younger. I think the community and the sense of camaraderie that Andover Tennis has allowed me to experience has really kept me going and really motivated me to be a better player and always love to improve,” said Lee.
In cooperation with the other co-captain, Ananya Madduri ’23, Lee hopes to nurture a team environment that prioritizes support, understanding, and respect. With players across all grades new to the team, she believes it is the role of the captains to set the example.
“I think Ananya and I are always trying to maintain and build a really strong team environment of support both on and off the court. Our team this year is quite new. We have a lot of Lowers and Freshmen and even new Seniors who weren’t on the team previously. And so for us, it’s been super important to set that precedent as players, as leaders, as a team of students of support, of understanding, respect. It’s important to always try your best and be competitive, but also have that mutual respect there for one another,” said Lee.
According to Madduri, Lee’s constant care for the team allows its players to feel comfortable in approaching her. In addition, her extensive experience on a high-level tennis team is crucial in keeping the team organized, efficient, and disciplined.
“She’s a very warm and caring person. I think her experience makes her very easy to approach if you need anything. She’s super organized because again, going back to caring, she really cares about the team, and she puts that as the first and foremost thing, which is really impressive. This is her second year as captain, fourth year on the team, like that’s very impressive in and of itself. And so I guess her experience is really inspiring and motivating and then her care for the team. She leads with a direct sense of purpose, and therefore, she’s organized and disciplined,” said Madduri.
Lee believes tennis players thrive in practice environments that mimic game-like scenarios. Not only should there be similar effort levels but also similar energy levels and mindsets, according to Lee.
“I think we always want to simulate practice kind of as if we were in a game. With that same motivation and spirit and energy at all times, I think you’ll perform well in a match if you put in the work and do everything you can in a practice, so we always want that effort level to be up there, the energy up there. Just bring a positive attitude and willingness to work hard,” Lee.
Head Coach Deb Chase notes that Lee has been learning how to be an effective leader since first joining the team. As her second year taking on the leadership role, Lee has shown drastic growth in finding her own voice within the team, especially when clear communication is needed.
“I remember conversations, and she used to be really quiet. And she really found her own voice and found her own way to lead both through doing the work on the court, but also through messaging the girls about organizing events and organizing practices. She comes to me and is a conduit if any of the girls had questions, and she was able to communicate them to me in a really mature and forward thinking way,” said Chase.
For Lee, winning the singles NEPSAC championship in her Junior year proved to be one of the most memorable highlights of her time on the team. Besides successful matches, Lee also values the priceless memories of spending time with her teammates at team dinners.
“I loved winning NEPSAC, the championship, my Freshman year. Traveling to Kent and also winning the single championship there. But more importantly, I just loved my team members. Every year, I’m so lucky to have been able to be part of such a strong team that is always caring and supportive. And anything from team dinners to Friday night practices when we go to Coach Chase’s house after a long hard session. Like all of that has made it so meaningful and worthwhile,” said Lee.
With her Andover career nearing the end, Lee just hopes to make the most out of the remaining few weeks. On top of winning, she hopes all nine team members can overcome injury and sickness to play as one bonded team.
“I’m hoping we can continue our undefeated streak, and I really just want the team to come back all together. We’ve had quite a number of players out here and there—injuries, sickness, all these other things. I just want it to be solid and unified, and have a great final few weeks all together,” said Lee.