Photo Credit: Jennifer Pottheiser
Five special players proudly accepted USTA Jr. Team Tennis 14 & Under National Championships Sportsmanship Awards, given annually to the players who exemplify a commitment to fair play and positivity no matter the outcome of a match.
By Sarah Houseknecht, special to USTA.com
The competition at Jr. Team Tennis 14 & Under National Championships is often quite tense, but around the grounds at Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center in South Carolina this weekend, players, coaches and fans from the event’s 32 participating teams were interacting with new friends from all around the country.
At the end of the day, win or lose, Jr. Team Tennis is all about fun – and sportsmanship plays a big part.
Sportsmanship awards are given annually at Nationals to young men and women who show a dedication to fair play and positive enthusiasm. At the outset of the event, all 32 coaches are each given a lapel pin and asked to award it to a player on an opposing team that they think exemplifies sportsmanship – a difficult feat with nearly 250 youth players competing this weekend in Cayce, S.C.
“All of our Jr. Team Tennis players always exemplify what it means to be a good sport,” said Adrienne Di Menna, USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Manager. “To me, sportsmanship is when players walk off the court and you can’t tell who won or lost, their proud either way.”
The annual Jr. Team Tennis National Sportsmanship Awards were announced Sunday during the closing award ceremonies. For the Intermediate Division, Mary Elizabeth Soria, of Devon, Pa., (USTA Middle States) and Eshan Talluri of San Diego (USTA Southern California) earned the honors.
“I think each team has role models that players like to follow. If you set a good example for your team, others want to be like that too and it leads to a lot of fun on the court,” said Talluri. “This award means so much to me because I’ve consciously tried to work on that and this shows that it pays off.”
For the Advanced Division, two players – Alexandria Mjos of Austin, Texas, (USTA Texas) and Katarina Rosenberg of St. Louis (USTA Missouri Valley) – shared the award for the girls. Andrew Roberts of Virginia Beach, Va., (USTA Mid-Atlantic) was selected as the young man who offered the most in the way of classy play.
“There was great team spirit all around. It’s all about having fun. We’re all here to be competitive, but also to enjoy the match,” said Roberts. “Or else, why would we play tennis?”
USTA Jr. Team Tennis brings kids together in teams to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles against other teams. It promotes social skills and important values by fostering a spirit of cooperation and unity, as well as individual self-growth. Also, it’s a fun environment for kids in which they learn that succeeding is really more about how they play the game – win or lose.