Leah Engstrom first started playing tennis the summer after sixth grade. Her brother Eric had just decided to try out for his middle school’s tennis team.
They and their parents went to their local tennis courts almost every night to play together.
“We would always go out late at night when no one else was there,” said Leah.
Now Eric and Leah Engstrom play tennis together almost every night, but they share the court with the rest of JBU’s tennis program. Eric is the student coach for the men’s and women’s teams while Leah is a co-captain of the women’s team.
“It’s awesome to have something where I know I will get to hang out with my sibling two hours a day,” said Eric.
He said they have always been close, though playing tennis together has helped deepen their relationship.
Eric had joined the tennis team as a walk-on his freshman year. He had not played competitively played tennis since middle school because it conflicted with high school baseball.
“I had played before, I felt comfortable on the court and I love tennis so I thought ‘what the heck, why not’,” said Eric about deciding to try out for the team.
Leah said she and her parents had not been that surprised when Eric called them during his freshman year and said he was going to play tennis at JBU.
“Eric is one of those people who randomly show talents in lots of things,” said Leah.
Playing tennis with Eric is one of the main reasons Leah decided to come to JBU. Leah thought the transition to college life would be hard not only because of academics and being away from home but also because she would have to give up ballet.
“The first year not dancing was really hard because I’ve done it ever since I can remember,” said Leah.
While Leah became set on JBU, she still had to be convinced by Eric that playing tennis would not over load her schedule, and that she would be able to play at a collegiate level.
After their first year playing together, the team found out that they did not have a coach for the next season. When Robyn Daugherty, the Athletic Director, talked to Leah and her co-captain Marissa Podgorski about what they would like to happen, they both asked if Eric could be their coach.
Leah said Eric creates an easy-going atmosphere for both teams and that he genuinely wants to be there for others.
“He’s not just a coach from three to five,” said Leah.
She also said that she feels the women’s team likes having Eric as a coach not only because he is a good coach but because Leah is not afraid to go ask Eric about things.
“And I’m not afraid to tell her no,” said Eric, smiling.
Eric said he feels having siblings playing tennis does help draw the men’s and women’s teams together because he is naturally going to go find Leah to talk and laugh with her.
Leah said she always thinks Eric is funny, though she sometimes doubts other people appreciate their humor.
“If they stage a rebellion,” said Eric jokingly about his teammates, “It’s definitely better to have two against 16 instead of one against 16.”
Eric said Leah is one of the funniest people that he knows. He described her as soft-hearted but with strong opinions.
“It’s a unique opportunity for a brother and sister to play on the same team,” said Eric.