Tennis players strategize to win future matches, build strong relationships

Tennis season is in full swing as the men and women’s teams train, unhindered by inclement weather.

The women’s team competed in their first match on Feb. 12, in Russellville, Arkansas, where they lost against Arkansas Tech. The men’s team won their first game on Feb. 16, in Conway, Arkansas. The current record for the women’s team is 2-2 and the men’s record is 3-0.

The team spends hours in vans traveling to off-campus matches and building relationships.  Senior Clare Holden said trips are one of her favorite part about the team.

Junior Nathan Kuykendall said, “My favorite part about being on the tennis team at JBU is being able to connect to the other guys and girls on the team.  It’s given me a very unique opportunity to meet people that I otherwise would not be able to know.” 

Another benefit of playing on the tennis team, according to Kuykendall, is meeting people from around the world. Some of his opponents are from Africa, New Zealand, Central America and Europe.

Tennis is not only a social outlet, but also a way to learn valuable life lessons. Sophomore and ten-year tennis veteran Julia McNeill said that tennis teaches a lot of self-control.

“When I get down in a match, I can still come back,” McNeill said. “That’s been the main thing: learning how to control my emotions so I can stay calm during the match and potentially I can still win, even if I’m down.”

Freshman Cade Cox said that tennis is not necessarily for everyone, as it can be a hard sport to pick up. 

“When you watch tennis, you think, ‘oh it can’t be that hard,’” Cox said.  “When I first tried to play it, you realize how much technique and practice goes into it to actually be good.”

Playing tennis requires just as much mental activity as physical, Kuykendall said. “The stronger player doesn’t always win.  The most athletic player doesn’t always win.  The one who has the best mental capacity and has the best strategy is the one who will win the match.” 

With two wins this season already, Holden said this year is the teams’ best since she has been at JBU.

“I know a lot of people look at the tennis team and say wow, they have a losing record, but it’s because we don’t have a lot of schools in our area that are the same division as we are,” Holden said.  Teams that JBU plays against can be from Division II or III schools.

During the season, the women play four home matches and the men play three. With few games at home, the players encourage students to come watch their on-campus games.

“The atmosphere of a tennis match really does influence the outcome of a game,” Kuykendall said.  “When we have people cheering us on and present with us during the match, it really changes the dynamic of the match.”

If students come support the teams, they may hear the players refer to themselves as birds instead of eagles.  Holden said they do that because there are a lot of other teams with the eagle mascot. 

“It pertains to our personality as a team, that we like to have fun. We take tennis seriously, but we don’t necessarily take ourselves too seriously,” Holden said. “Honestly, it pumps us up.”

The first home match for the women is on March 9, and both teams have a home match on March 12. 

“If people could come watch us, that would be great,” McNeill said.  “I know everybody on the team really enjoys it when people get excited about the sport and when they come support us.”