Carlson Earns Gold Star Award
Tracy Carlson did not get a “traditional” start in tennis – whatever that means.
The tennis, assistant cross country and freshman girls basketball coach at Francis Howell High School fell into the game entirely by accident.
The head tennis coach at her high school was also Carlson’s basketball coach. He asked if she was interested in trying tennis.
See? Hardly traditional.
Fast forward to today and she is a USTA Missouri Valley 2020 Gold Star Award Recipient for her efforts in coaching, as well as community tennis programming.
“It’s kind of funny actually. I am super competitive and although I did pretty well for my first year playing I wasn't sure I would come back because I wasn't the best at it,” she said. “I have always been pretty quick and a hustle player, so I played defensively and got to everything. My dad said, ‘Let's take some private lessons over the off-season,’ to see what I thought after that. I was determined to get better, so I worked hard and continued to play. I reached State in No.1 Doubles my junior year and came close in singles my senior year.”
Carlson’s athletic prowess originally had her set on a basketball career at Maryville University. A stint in the Army, a slew of deployments, as well as work as a medical lab technician meant basketball simply was not in the cards.
That is when a life in tennis really came into focus for Carlson. She fell in love with it.
“I would work night shifts at Barnes West County, then go straight to morning practices or matches after getting off work at 9 a.m.,” she said. “Basketball wasn't an option and tennis grew on me naturally. I love it even more today. It gave me something to work towards and progress in to feed my athletic side. I have always loved challenges and I just love to play.”
Carlson passes that enthusiasm of the game onto students at Frances Howell High School as a tennis coach. Much like she, most players she encounters did not get their start in tennis until later. She is excited she can work with youth and give them the keys to enjoy a lifelong sport.
Tennis is a great option to get kids and adults alike moving for exercise. It can be so much more than that, however. Carlson hopes she can be an influence in getting youth in her area access to tennis at a younger age.
“I am very excited about winning this award and being a part of growing the game that I love so much,” she said. “I really hope I am able to continue making a positive impact on growing the sport and getting younger kids involved in my community. Right now, tennis is not a sport that is emphasized in my area. Many athletes start late and end up wishing they had started sooner. My goal is to get more affordable exposure to the game so area athletes don’t miss out on valuable time on the court.”
In terms of her personal game, Carlson’s athletic side has paid dividends—she oftentimes uses defense as her best offense. She employs strategy and mixes things up to keep her opponents guessing.
Being athletic is certainly an advantage, but Carlson definitely likes that one has to think about what is going on over on the other end of the court to be successful.
“My favorite part of the game is the different styles and tactics. I am not by any means a typical player. I play defensively and like to slice and change the speed of the ball. I like the fact that you really have to strategize to be a high-level player. You can't just have a skill set—you have to figure out what your opponent doesn't like to do and try to put them in that position with your game. Tennis is an extremely athletic chess match to some extent. That's part of what makes it fun.”
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