Local Standout Shaan Patel Demonstrates Exceptional Sportsmanship
In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month occurring in May in the U.S., check out this USTA St. Louis feature on Shaan Patel, who is Asian Indian.
USTA St. Louis standout Shaan Patel has made waves as one of the premier prep players in the St. Louis area and USTA Missouri Valley. But it’s his integrity, character and positive disposition — both on the tennis court and off it — that has earned him recognition multiple times over in the form of sportsmanship accolades.
Patel, in the midst of his freshman season at John Burroughs School, earned the 2022 Boys 14s Junior Sportsmanship Award from both USTA St. Louis and USTA Missouri Valley. He picked up a sportsmanship award for the Boys 14s Spring Team Championships in March 2022, and he received the Tom Patterson Sportsmanship Award at the 2022 USTA Boys 14s Indoor National Championships.
Patel also collected a sportsmanship award at the 2019 USTA Missouri Valley Sweet 16 Championship and has earned other section-level and district-level recognition. His mother, Punita Gupta, said her son believes good sporting behavior and top-level performance on the tennis court go hand in hand.
“It’s part of his way to stay focused on his game,” Punita said. “He really loves competing, and he’s very serious about it. That’s the way he handles the stress of the game. We’ve seen other people have a come-apart when they play their matches, throwing their racquets and yelling. That’s just not his personality and not who he is.
“When he gets into the zone, nothing else matters except what’s happening on the court. That’s really helped him. And — don’t get me wrong — obviously he has his moments. But he tries to keep it to himself.”
Punita credited Shaan’s coach, Troy Bray of Creve Coeur Racquet Club, for acting as a terrific role model in Shaan’s life. She said traveling across the country and meeting other competitors has helped Shaan’s maturation as a player and person, pushing him beyond his comfort zone as he hones his craft.
“It’s beyond what I could have ever expected; I’m so incredibly proud of him,” Punita said. “There’s truly nothing more I could ask for him. A lot of this is him. He has to deal with a lot of stress going to school full-time. The traveling is hard — sometimes 9-, 10-, 11-hour drives. Waking up early. We try to be there to support him. He just leads the way. He has a goal, and he’s a very determined kid. He will do what he can to achieve it. He has gone beyond my expectations ever.”
Punita noted Rafael Nadal, whose stellar sportsmanship is likewise well-documented, is one of Shaan’s favorite players. Shaan is a student of the sport, watching tennis when he can to improve his game. Punita joked that Shaan would jump into tennis on a full-time basis if given the choice.
“He has so much respect for the game itself,” Punita said. “He truly enjoys it. It’s not one of those things where you’re forcing your kid to play. This is truly his love. That’s just who he is. He can go out there and take stress out on the ball. That’s a really good, positive way to channel your energy. Whether you had a bad day or you want to go out there and celebrate, it’s very constructive and a great stress reliever.”
To learn more about USTA Missouri Valley’s expectations on sportsmanship, click here. USTA St. Louis reminds participants they can nominate good sportsmanship at any point during the year. The district encourages nominations for junior sportsmanship to be submitted each month. To do so, click here. USTA adult league competitors can nominate for good sporting behavior by clicking here.