He picked up picked up his first tennis racket at age 7. This week in #StudentSpotlight Matthew a.k.a ‘Batman’

Matthew picked up his first tennis racket at age seven.  At the age of eight, he began spending a few hours each day at the local tennis rec. center. Recognizing Matthew’s increased interest and passion for the game, Mr. B (his father) and Mrs. B (his mom) wanted to expose Matthew to a more “professional” training environment, and that is when they found HAT!

Matthew a.k.a Batman
Matthew a.k.a Batman

We want him to play tennis pro. He loves tennis. His life is tennis.

While there are many caring parents who wish sports stardom for their children, there are really few who understand all of the hard work, investments, sacrifice, and drive that is required to succeed in any professional sport.   In fact, Mr. B., had dreams of becoming an acrobat/artistic performer himself for the traveling circus in his birth nation of Mongolia.  But, he was deterred by an unfortunate accident at age 4 that resulted in serious back injuries.  Similarly to Mathew, Mr. B was passionately and determinedly focused on his circus acts, and after four years of purposeful preparation and dedicated training he managed to make his dream come true.  Unfortunately, seven years into performing in his beloved circus Mr. B had to retire due to his ever-present back injury.  However, as he is often sharing, “I had fun and lived those years wholeheartedly happy”.

In 1999, Mr. B migrated to the United States.  After leaving the circus it was hard for him to find work in Mongolia due to the uncertainty of the political climate.  Drawn to the peaceful life in America, Mrs. B soon followed and joined Mr. B in 2001.  They haven’t returned to Mongolia since – they have found America to be a good place… a home with many advantages and possibilities for the future of their children.

Matthew came to love tennis… the game, the players, and everything connected to it.  He puts in tremendous effort and works purposefully every day to become the best player that he can be.  “It’s a good way to exercise.  It makes me happy!”  If you ask him who his favorite player is, he is likely to answer Roger Federer.  “Federer is a strong hitter and has great footwork.  I love his forehand.”  Even at a young age, Matthew has set his sights very high.  He wants to win many titles, such as Wimbledon and the French Open!

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Andre and Isabella Story – This week #StudentSpotlight

Sometimes unanticipated and unexpected events occur in our lives that take us off the path we are meant to follow. The economy, family health issues, lack of access to sports facilities – it becomes a challenge to be all that we can be just facing one of these hardships and even more so when facing all three!

HAT Isabella & AndreBThis is the story of Andre and Isabella B. Both are talented players with super parents, both of whom are successful athletes in their own right. Hit hard by the recession, a parent facing serious health issues, and little to no access to practice facilities has put the B’s in a position needing support.

Relatively new to the game of tennis, both Andre and Isabella have exhibited talent for the sport right away. Andre and Isabella started playing tennis twice a week in a limited amount of Tier Classes in Oct. 2013 and participated in their first tournament in May 2014. In just under one year each has risen up the rankings from not being ranked at all.

Eleven-year old Isabella is #3 in Idaho in singles, #1 in Idaho in doubles and is ranked 442 in National Doubles and 716.1 in National Singles Combined. In the Intermountain rankings, Isabella is 26 in singles and 17 in Doubles. Experiencing a growth spurt, Andre is nearly 6 feet tall at just 14 years old. Quickly adjusting to his new height, Andre ranks #2 in Idaho Doubles and #10 in Idaho Singles in Boys 14. He is also 63rd in Intermountain Singles and 29th in Intermountain Doubles.

Education and tennis are the family’s way of life. A schedule filled with academics, conditioning, and practicing is a regimen HAT AndreBthat is yielding significant results. Days are spent learning, cross training, yoga, and tennis training.

Living in a sparsely populated area of the northwest US with the lowest per capita income, the B’s have very limited access to tennis facilities. Even under these conditions, Andre and Isabella are achieving a good level of success.

Michael Farrington, Site Director and Fitness Coach at HAT, has identified the B’s as possessing the talent and drive to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“When I first saw Andre play, he played one of our full time students that had about 300 career matches under his belt, while Andre had played in less than 10 tournaments in his tennis career. Needless to say, the match did not go Andre’s way.  I spoke with Andre’s father throughout the entirety of the match and learned more about the difficulty he was experiencing trying to give his kids the best opportunity to be successful in tennis.  A few months later, Andre again played one of our full time students and had a better showing. He was still very raw, but the improvements in his game were noticeable.  Andre had been watching High Altitude Tennis, Steve Smith, and any other tennis videos that contain great information as well as practicing with his sister, on their own, for the past few months.  I rarely see the drive and determination from children (especially as young as Isabella) to do things on their own and practice on their own without a program or tennis professional on court with them.  Isabella is a very talented young lady and looks to have the physical capabilities, drive, and determination to make it to a Division 1 University.  Both Andre and Isabella are immensely smart and work very hard and will certainly flourish in the right environment, if given the chance.”

Isabella B with trophy
Isabella B with trophy

Boise, Idaho lacks a focus on junior tennis and does not have a junior development program. The handful of indoor tennis courts allow for limited court time. The B’s are keenly aware of their extraordinary request for support. Their goal is not only to achieve at the highest levels of the sport, but to also pay-it-forward by supporting others in similar positions in the future.

I didn’t just wake up one day thinking, Wow, I want to be a tennis player,It all came gradually

Karen reached out to HAT, hoping for an opportunity to train and travel on the WTA circuit with the expert coaching team.  You see Karen does not come from a family of professional athletes or parents who are well to do.  They are an every day family, with an extraordinary daughter; fighting her way to the top of the game, often facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles.

Karen Barritza, WTA Player from Denmark

Traveling the world every week playing tournaments in not so glamorous locations, often alone, with enormous pressures from home and from self, can be overwhelming.  Breaking through as a professional tennis player is extremely difficult.  It certainly demands skill, talent and dedication; however, it also requires a tremendous amount of emotional and financial support.

Becoming a top-ranked tennis player does not happen automatically.  “I didn’t just wake up one day thinking, ‘Wow, I want to be a tennis player!’ says Karen, “It all came gradually.  I started playing when I was six on a vacation in Romania, and got really into it and practiced a lot. When I came home (to Denmark), I was playing quite well, started winning a lot and kept practicing – people and coaches started noticing me.

Karen credits her involvement with HAT for much of her success both on and off the court.  “Those involved with HAT are ambitious and talented.  The organization provides a nurturing environment so that you can take your tennis to the next level.  I have learned a lot and have had a lot of experiences that I feel I can take with me ‘till later in life.”  Karen’s goal is to be in the Top 100 WTA singles and to play Grand Slam events.