Local tennis player chases aspirations to next level
Steamboat Springs — Andy Schuiling hopes the game of tennis is going to take him places in the future — and why shouldn’t he dream?
Earlier this month, the 12-and-under player traveled to Omaha, where he represented the Intermountain Division at the United States Tennis Association’s Zone Team Championships, a top-level, national tournament that pits the best 12-and-under players in their respective regions against the best players from other regions.
Andy played on the Intermountain Division team, which included 12 players (six girls, and six boys) from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Montana. That team was split into two for the competition. The intermountain squads faced equally talented groups from Texas, which had three teams; the Missouri Valley (Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas), which had three; and Northern Minnesota, which hadtwo.
Andy was disappointed that he won only two of the nine matches he played, but Loretta Conway, a tennis professional at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, said his results must be kept in perspective. It was his first time at the event, and the players he faced were the best in the country.
“It’s a very big deal,” Conway said of Andy having made the team.
“It means that Andy is one of the best 12-year-old players in the country, and it’s a huge honor just to get invited,” Conway said. “It’s pretty rare for a player from Steamboat Springs to make this team, and to get to play at this level is awesome.”
Conway added the experience is a valuable lesson for a young player such as Andy, a seventh-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Already, he has aspirations of playing in national-level events as he grows older and hopes to land a spot with a top college program when the time comes.
The zonal tournament was also a rare chance for Andy to play in a team format in singles, doubles and mixed-doubles events, a different experience than he will see in high school and an atmosphere he hasn’t had much experience with.
Each day at the championships — which ran July 6 through 11 — two teams were competed against one another in a team format event. The players competed in singles in the ranking, as well as doubles and mixed-doubles events. Andy said he loved the team aspects of the event and that it was great cheering for his teammates and learning that tennis can have a team aspect.
He added that the event was an eye-opening experience, as he watched the top players during the week and was exposed to what it takes to make it at the next level.
“I need to work harder,” said Andy, who is currently ranked No. 2 in Colorado and No. 9 in the Intermountain Division in his age division. “Those guys hit the ball a lot harder, and they are more consistent that I am right now.”
But that doesn’t mean the local youth is going to throw in the towel. A few days after the camp, he was back at the Tennis Center working on his game.
He practices two hours per day Monday through Friday and takes two lessons that are each an hour and a half long. He also frequently hits the ball with his dad, hoping to build on the consistency it will take to get him to the Zonal Championships.
“My goal is to get back, but I’m going to have to make it as a U14 next time around,” Andy said. “My birthday is Aug. 20, and that means a new age group.”
When asked what he will take away from his trip to Omaha and the chance to play tennis with the nation’s best players in his age group, Andy said he was happy he got the chance to play as part of a team.
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