story by Anna Maria Gardiner, Carina Leaman and Josh Imholte

Summer is usually the time for beach trips and relaxing, but for Dutch Fork sophomore Sam Calais it means practice, practice, practice.

“Over the summer I take lessons, clinics, tournaments, and I try to work out so that I stay in shape. I have to work out so that I can endure longer matches because how quickly you get tired can be a determining factor of whether you win or lose a match.” Sam said.

While most of us are out on the lake with our friends, soaking up the UV rays, Sam is perfecting her skills and on her way to becoming a better athlete.

“I have clinics three days a week. Those are more of match play and working with other players. Lessons, on the other hand, help me just focus on my individual strokes because it’s just me and my coach. I have those lessons about once a week,” Sam said, “Tournaments help me gain a lot of experience just from having that extra match play. It teaches me how to handle not always winning and it gives me an opportunity to really see what helped me win and what hurt my game so that I can apply that to my next match.”

In any sports movie, there is the athlete and the mentor or coach. For Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, it was Clint Eastwood. For Mark Schultz, it was his brother, Dave.  The athlete would not be the person they are without the coach pushing them and making them better. For Sam, it’s her coach and her parents.

“My main coach works with me throughout the summer. I see him almost every day and he helps me keep up with my practice. He also usually comes to all of my tournaments for support and to see what I need to work on at my next practice,” Sam said, “My parents push me to play as much tennis as possible throughout the year, but it’s also an individual choice. I know I need to keep playing as much as possible to get to the level I want to reach.”

High school tennis provides a team aspect, but playing over the summer gives Sam the opportunity to improve her individual skills.

“They [high school tennis and tennis over the summer] are similar because they both have constant match play. I enjoy tennis during school because I like the team aspect and there is more of a bond. Over the summer, it’s more of me on my own.” Sam said.

But just because she works as an individual over the summer doesn’t mean that she’s alone in her endeavors.

“I have a lot of friends from around the state and from other states also because when I go to tournaments I usually see the same players. I’ve become really close to some of them because there’s always time to hang out with each other between matches.” Sam said.

Working year-round is one of many ways that an athlete can improve their craft and Sam is well on her way.

“Tennis definitely requires year long practice because it takes muscle memory and you have to keep playing constantly in order to play your best,” Sam said,”Taking time off can make it rough when you’re trying to get back into it after a break.”