By Kyle Kuhnel, special to USTA.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -
The Austin Tennis Academy (ATA) Dream Team out of Austin, Texas is a perennial favorite at the Jr. Team Tennis National Championships, having placed second, first, and third at nationals, respectively, since 2008. For two Dream Teamers - Josh Hager and Brooke Hughes - 2011 represents the final chapter in book four years in the making.
Hager and Hughes have been on each of the previous three teams representing the USTA Texas Section at the 18 & Under National Championships - having narrowly missed a repeat championship last year in Surprise, they are looking to finish their JTT careers on top.
"My role on the team has changed and it’s been really interesting now that I am one of the older members of the team," said Hager. "I started as a 14-year-old sub in doubles and now I’m playing singles and it’s been a fun challenge evolving into the role as team leader."
Both plan to continue playing tennis in college. Hughes has already made up her mind as she will be playing for the University of Oregon in 2012. Hager, meanwhile, will be taking a gap year and will make up his mind where to play next year.
It is the camaraderie and friendships they have built together over the past years that have made their Jr. Team Tennis experience something they will always remember.
"For me it’s about helping some of the younger ones deal with the pressure," said Hughes. "Our youngest players are good enough to hit with the older kids, but I’ve tried to help them find their confidence and calm them down when it gets to a big situation.
"We won the whole thing a couple of years ago, and now as seniors, it would be really cool to win it again in our final year."
"I’m going to miss this tournament because we play about 25 events a year and this is definitely my favorite," added Hager.
It’s not just about tennis for the ATA Dream Team. As part of an ongoing initiative, their tennis academy is raising money for "A Glimmer of Hope," a non-profit organization that helps lift women and children out of the extreme poverty in rural Ethiopia. The charity provides clean water, schools, health clinics and loans one village at a time, with the ATA pledging to raise $1,000,000 for the at-risk African nation alongside "A Glimmer of Hope" over the next ten years.
National Championships Home