Making History: 3rd In State
Rev. Peter Semeyn

Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid plans of mice and men can still go wrong.” No matter how well we plan, there is no guarantee of success. There are many variables that can impact a plan. But having a plan is important. A modern leadership principle is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Based on his 20+ years history of coaching tennis, Timothy head tennis coach Keith Mills spent the summer planning for the upcoming fall season. Eight seniors had graduated from the previous year’s very successful squad. He knew that he had some talented players returning, but they were all underclassmen. There were lots of question marks.

Two of his key returning players were Clarissa Chen and Crystina Lee, both sophomores. Clarissa and Crystina also spent the summer planning for their upcoming season, knowing there were big shoes to fill.

Knowing that she would be playing doubles this fall, Clarissa spent the summer working with her personal coach almost exclusively on doubles skills. She previously had been a singles player and this would be a foreign role for her. In the meantime, Crystina knew she would be counted on to play #1 singles. She worked at honing her singles skills over the summer. They knew these would be the roles they would have to play to fill the void left by graduation.

The summer planning and hard work paid off as the Lady Trojans placed third in the IHSA 1A tennis finals. (There are only two divisions in tennis.) This was the highest finish in the history of girls or boys tennis for Timothy! Junior Angie Tornabene, playing singles, won two matches and finished 2-2 at State. Juniors Maddie Drye and Miliana Martens, playing in only their second year of tennis, picked up a big win against Geneseo in round one. Clarissa and her doubles partner, freshman Jane Carter, came up big, ending their run at State with a 4-2 record, top 12 in State, and All-State recognition (this was Clarissa’s second All-State recognition). Crystina finished in the top 8 in singles at State with a 4-2 record and highest singles finish in school history. She was named All-State for the second year in a row.

Early on in the season, the team wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but as the season progressed and the players became more familiar with one another and their skills, the possibilities became clear. The result was a conference championship, a sectional championship and third in the state.

“Coach Mills has a calm demeanor. He is an encourager and his Christian faith is evident to us.”

A unique aspect of high school tennis is that students compete as individuals, but their performance adds to a team score. The individual nature of tennis can create tension on teams and impact team chemistry. But this year’s Timothy team was very tight. They purposely worked at team chemistry and consequently not only had a bond on the court, but enjoyed spending time with one another off the court as well. One of the major contributors to team chemistry was frequently praying together as a team.

While Clarissa and Crystina worked hard on improving their tennis skills over the summer, they also worked on the mental aspect of their game. “I can get negative about myself and my performance. That is never helpful. I purposely focused on putting things in perspective and tried to maintain a positive attitude,” Crystina shared.

Clarissa faced a different challenge. She had to adjust to being a doubles player. “I needed to understand my partner and her strengths and weaknesses. Jane was not only a freshman, but she was playing her first year of high school tennis. While I am only a sophomore, I had to be a leader and a role model.”

There is a synergistic quality to tennis. Both Clarissa and Crystina noted how they have grown emotionally during the tennis season because of their faith in Christ and how their faith in Christ grew by playing tennis.

“The success of our team begins with our coach,” the girls said. “Coach Mills has a calm demeanor. He is an encourager and his Christian faith is evident to us which makes a huge difference.” Tennis teams play lots of tournaments with schools from all over the region, many who have never heard of Timothy Christian. Those teams are always impressed with the attitude and demeanor of the Timothy players.

The best laid plans can fail. This year’s plan for the Timothy tennis team was a great success!

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