Olympus High School Girls’ Tennis Team Mentally Ready To Defend State Title
Sep 29, 2016 04:18PM
● By Sarah Almond
Senior Co-Captain Sabrina Longson and Head Coach Kevin Watts are all smiles after Sabrina won her match at the 2015 state tournament. Sabrina and her fellow teammates are eager to dominate the courts again at the 2016 state championships on Oct. 5 at the Liberty Park tennis courts. (olympushighschoolathletics.com)
By Sarah Almond | [email protected]
For the Olympus High Schools girls tennis team, the 2016 season has been one of both remarkable mental growth and historic success.
“The team is about as strong as you can get this year,” Head Coach Kevin Watts said. “We’ve played all of the big teams and all of our kids are particularly strong this year.”
The Titans had more than 90 girls come out for the season, which began in early August. Though the team’s roster is now around 80, the Titans are still one of the biggest teams in their 4A region.
“We don’t cut any girls because we want these girls to love to play the game — particularly the ones who are in the ninth grade who will be with us for four years,” Watts said. “We just encourage them all to come.”
This is Watts’ fifth season as head coach for the Titans tennis team. For Watts, who’s played and coached tennis for several decades, one of the best parts of coaching has been watching the talent of his program constantly improve.
“The girls are much stronger and we’ve noticed even since last summer that they are more mentally able and more mature,” Watts said. “They deal with pressures a lot better; just mental maturity of these girls has been quite noticeable.”
Senior Co-Captain Sabrina Longson has also noticed the group’s mental change. She says that though it wasn’t always easy, improving their mentality has enabled the Titans to stay focused on the court.
“We’ve worked very hard with our girls and saying ‘this is between you and the ball, and not the girl on the other side of the net. You’ve got to be able to create that zone in your head,’” Watts said.
By focusing on this goal the Titans are better able to control their mentality about the game and dominate on the court.
“We’ve all been working hard on our mental game and being strong mentally throughout the match,” Longson said. “I also think the older girls have been a good example to the younger girls mentally, so that has helped a lot.”
Though Watts is incredibly happy with the leadership on his team, he largely credits the parents of his players for this positive growth.
“The credit goes to the families of these girls,” Watts said. “We encourage them to play, but the real powerhouses are the moms and the dads. They are the ones who got these girls involved in tennis and who help make the culture.”
The Olympus team has won back-to-back state championship titles. Watts believes that, when paired with their newfound mentality, the group’s talent and experience will help them to defend their title again this year.
“It’s amazing the athletic ability that some of these kids have,” Watts said. “They are eager to take the coaching instruction, which is really good to see, and it’s been quite encouraging seeing their commitment.”
For players like Sabrina, the dedication and commitment from the girls is something that makes the Titans team so unique. She says this is part of the Olympus culture and, as a senior leader, she is working to carry on a tradition that has been established by the leaders before her.
“It’s always fun to talk to the girls about how they see the team,” Sabrina said. “Because I see it in a different way than some of the other girls, so it’s nice to understand how they feel and what I can do to make them feel more comfortable.”
The friendships and camaraderie that developed amongst the team this year have also been a highlight for Sabrina. She said that being on the varsity team and being part of a fun group has been the best part of the 2016 season.
“We all get along really well and everyone is happy with each other,” Sabrina said. “It’s just been fun being a part of such a good group.”
The Titans are looking forward to defending their title at the state tournament beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Liberty Park tennis courts located at 900 South 700 East near downtown Salt Lake City.