Brighton tennis team prioritizes health in hopes for a full 2020 season
Aug 26, 2020 01:59PM
By Tavia Dutson
By Tavia Dutson | [email protected]
On a hot Tuesday afternoon, Brighton High School tennis coach Natalie Meyer attempted to round up her group of 39 enthusiastic players. A practice that was supposed to end at 5 p.m. was extended by 15 minutes to give the girls just one more point, game or volley.
The coaching staff was excited about what they had been seeing after only one week of official practice. “I see improvements every day, I am just awestruck by what I see,” said assistant coach JaNae Smith in a post-practice pep talk.
Although all the coaches commented on a job well done, the main focus of the team talk was staying safe. “If you are sick or have potentially been exposed, please tell me and don’t come to practice,” Meyer said.
She continued to stress open communication and reassure the girls that not attending practice due to sickness would not hurt their position on the team. “They let me know and I work with them. I’m not going to penalize them for keeping everybody safe,” Meyer said.
Before every practice, the girls must complete a check-in process that includes temperature checks, going over the COVID symptoms, and signing their initials. Meyer says the girls have been great at adhering to these rules, with everyone focusing on maintaining the health of the group.
Other safety measures include noting which courts the girls play on each day and enforcing social distancing as much as possible. The girls even “huddled” up by spreading out over a full court to shout the team cheer.
Keeping up with the prep work required to keep the girls safe has proved to be no easy task. Meyer pulled out a full binder of papers, commenting that many more would be completed and filed throughout the season.
Before tryouts began, Meyer was expecting to take a team of around 25. However, at the optional open-court trainings she was astounded at the commitment shown. “There were consistently 39 girls who were just religious about showing up. Every single day from 3 to 5, in the heat of the day,” Meyer said. She is grateful to Principal Tom Sherwood for allowing her to hire three assistant coaches to help train this larger than normal group.
A focus on community has been an integral part of Meyer’s coaching philosophy during her 16 years as a Brighton coach. While always important, this year it has been amplified by the pandemic. When talking to her athletes about potentially missing the 2020 season due to cancellation, she likes to emphasize the bigger picture.
“We’re so lucky that they have these friendships with each other,” Meyer said. “The most important thing is that they and their families are safe.”
With four of the seven varsity starters from 2019 having since graduated, the team has worked hard to fill those positions. After a difficult summer of work, Meyer is optimistic for the future. “I think I have more depth this year. I don’t know how that will stack up against the other teams in region or state, but I have a lot of hard-working kids that have stepped it up.”
One of those hard workers is junior Rebecca Schwartz. Schwartz has been a part of Brighton’s varsity squad since she arrived as a freshman. As a semifinalist in last year’s state tournament at the second singles position, Schwartz is a likely choice for first singles this year. “She is at a whole different level. She’s done a great job from the moment she stepped on the court,” Meyer said.
Schwartz and the rest of the Bengals play at home multiple times this fall, including the Region 7 tournament in early October.