Serving up excellence: Steamboat freshman reaches varsity tennis through SERVES program
When Leslie Jimenez stepped onto a court at the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center for the first time, she was hooked.
Jimenez, a 14-year-old freshman at Steamboat Springs High School, began her tennis journey in fifth grade as an inaugural member of the Tennis Center’s SERVES program.
SERVES is a program run by the Steamboat Tennis Association, funded by the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation that stands for success, education, respect, values, excellence and self-confidence. It offers tennis instruction to children in under-resourced families who want to partake in one of Steamboat’s most popular sports.
Going through the program was an unforgettable experience for Jimenez, who said she learned so many life skills and became a better and more confident person.
“SERVES taught me so many values on the court and off the court,” Jimenez said. “They were values I would only learn from the sport tennis. Tennis teaches us so many things like confidence, it teaches us to not lie, to have good sportsmanship and those are really good values to have throughout your life.”
When starting out with the program, Jimenez made it a goal of hers to one day compete at the varsity level. In her first attempt, she achieved what she set out to accomplish and is playing for the Sailors’ No. 3 doubles team.
For head coach Bill Conway, seeing her growth over the years has been spectacular. He said people like Jimenez are the exact reason the Tennis Center wanted to partake in SERVES.
“To be barely 14 and starting on a high school varsity sport, she’s handling the pressure amazingly and she’s pushing the team just by her actions,” Conway said.
Jimenez shows up to every practice and competition focused and ready to play. Conway says she may not be the loudest person on the court but she leads by example with how she goes about her business.
The rest of his players feed off that energy and it makes for a more productive workout every day.
“You don’t have to be loud to be a good leader,” Conway said. “What she does is doesn’t say much and just puts her head down and works super hard. People know that Leslie is that person that is going to push everybody but isn’t telling anyone she’s going to do it, which is a real neat personality trait of hers.”
Best of all, Conway said her passion for tennis is unparalleled. She would be at the Tennis Center seven days per week if she could and even plans to work there this summer.
Jimenez is SERVES’ greatest success story and she is just getting started.
“I’m always a little nervous in the beginning of a match but once I start playing, the nerves shake off,” Jimenez said. “It’s only my freshman year so this year I just want to have fun and as the years go on, I want to get better.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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