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Missouri Valley / St. Louis

Meet Ellie Choate, 2019 Junior Sportsmanship Award Winner

Jamie Hansen | May 15, 2020

Being a good tennis player and being a good sport are not mutually exclusive – you can absolutely be both. 

 

Ask Ellie Choate, winner of the 2019 USTA Missouri Valley Girls 16s Junior Sportsmanship Award.

 

The junior-to-be at St. Joseph Academy has prowess on the court, but a propensity to play with fairness, as well.

 

"Ellie is a rare combination of being a fantastic player and a fantastic sport,” said John Kelly, USTA official. “She has the respect of everyone - including her opponents. Ellie's behavior on the court raises the sportsmanship level of her opponents. Her opponents know when they play Ellie that everything will be good - line calls, behavior, attitude and demeanor - and they act accordingly.”

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Choate practices good sportsmanship in all situations - at the tournament desk, towards officials, players and parents. She has received the Sportsmanship Award at the USTA Missouri Valley Sweet 16 two years in a row, as well as numerous sportsmanship nominations at local tournaments over the years. 

 

She has been active in USTA tournaments since age seven – and has done so successfully – posting a 611-232 record. Her light has shined just as brightly in her prep career, taking the Class 2 doubles crown at the 2018 Girls State Tennis Tournament with teammate Lexi Woodman. The duo posted a 22-2 record on the year. Pretty impressive for her first season of high school tennis.

 

Choate hopes the best is yet to come. She enjoys the team aspect of tennis more than individual accolades. She and the Angels will work toward grabbing the team title at state. After, she aspires to move on to collegiate tennis.

 

“I have always wanted to play in college and as I've gotten older, that desire has only grown,” she said. “My experience at USTA team events and Zonals, as well as my experience with high school tennis have made me want to play in college even more. The team environment is something that I love to be a part of, so college tennis has been a goal of mine for a long as I can remember.”

 

While tennis is often looked at as an individual sport, some of Choate’s best memories of the game surround being with teammates.

 

She said people are what make tennis great.

“My most cherished tennis memory is winning the third set of the deciding match at team sectionals freshman year, ultimately sending Saint Joe to state,” she said. “The environment was like nothing I had ever experienced. The team comradery from both teams was amazing to be a part of, and I would not change that moment for the world.”

 

Neither would St. Joseph coach Doug Smith. Smith admires many things about Choate, but her demeanor on the court is up near the top of the list.

 

"Ellie is a consummate exemplar of ideal sportsmanship,” Smith said.  “A model of integrity and untiring effort, she carries herself ever purposefully on the court while also extending sincere courtesy to her opponents and always demonstrating the noble creed to be ‘gracious in victory, dignified in defeat.’"

 

While wins and accolades are great, as is a perfectly timed backhand slice (her favorite shot), nothing beats being a good sport. 

 

In fact, according to Choate, wins, losses and being the best player in the world matter little if you are not a good sport in the process.

 

“Bad sportsmanship is a conscious decision, thus, there is no room for excuses when it comes to poor sportsmanship. Practicing good sportsmanship translates to being honest in life outside of the game. I look at it this way: Every action I take on and off the court defines my character, and when my tennis career is over, knowing inside that I was a fair player is far more important to me than any win-loss record.”

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