“Throughout my life, I have rarely seen someone as happy and satisfied as Miss-P”- Ryan Segelke. This week #StudentSpotlight Miss Peyton, our young fighter.

Miss-P is an ambitious student who has been with HAT since it’s inception.  I remember Miss-P’s first practice vividly to this day as she enchanted us all as a smiling, ambitious 6th grader.

Miss Peyton with her Dad.
Miss Peyton with her Dad.

I will never forget that one specific moment during one of our very challenging fitness sessions ran by our Lead Fitness Expert, Coach Michael Farrington.

Ten minutes into the fitness portion of practice Miss-P was as white as a ghost, looked pale and seemed exhausted.  One of our experts grew concerned and approached her to see if she needed a pause or a full stop break at which she said, “Nope, I’m good” and bravely continued with her fitness exercises.

A brave little fighter she was, and eventually made it to the last drill of the fitness session where we were doing wall sits.  Miss-P’s legs were shaking and tears were welling up in her eyes as she resolutely rejected the idea of quitting.

When the session was over, it took nearly 15 minutes for her to recover from one of the toughest fitness sessions she had ever experienced at her young age.  The entire staff was impressed by the will power, enthusiasm and passion Miss-P presented. On the other hand, we were also worried that the intense fitness session would scare her away from her future practice sessions.  That is, until we all noticed her walking proudly to the car alongside her parents with a big smile on her face… she realized that she had just completed something immensely challenging which had made her better.  She was profoundly satisfied… it was obvious, as she had accomplishment and satisfaction written all over her face.  Her father, Pete [a former competitive rugby player], would later describe our program to others who were interested as “this place is not for sissies” … Miss-P surely is not a sissy!

Miss-P continued to return day after day improving her game and her fitness to levels she had never experience before.  She was ALWAYS completely focused on what would help her improve to eventually play college tennis, and not distracted by what would give her instant short-term results.  This focus was highlighted during some of her first tournaments as a HAT player.  Leading up to the tournament Miss-P had been working hard on improving her serve, and like most players who have worked on improvements in their game, she failed miserably the first few times she put them into action under the pressure of a tennis match.  Actually, she could hardly make a serve in the box… yet she kept trying.  She was swinging through her serve focusing on perfecting her motion confidently, with proper technique.  A focus on perfection, which she knew would pay off in the future.  That day, Miss-P had a choice, and she chose to think forward and be patient in her development.  Which is, you must agree, very wise and quite rare for her age.  Through her resiliency Miss-P worked out the kinks and went on to eventually winning three tournaments in a row!  Her game was just thriving and things were looking up, way up!

Throughout my life, I have rarely seen someone as happy and satisfied as Miss-P was at the end of her winning that first tournament.  She has personally entrenched her parents and the entire HAT Community in a vibrating circle of satisfaction, pride and profound joy.

Later, Miss-P began to become less confident in her movement and began to play with a little less balance than we were use to seeing from her.  You see, one thing I failed to mention was that Miss-P, previous to our program, had fought another battle with the tissue in her brain.

At age 5 she developed a brain tumor and had it successfully removed [the procedure, performed by the exceptional staff at The Children’s Hospital of Colorado is called a craniotomy and required Miss-P to endure 4 surgeries over 2 days].  Sadly, the malicious tumor had returned and Miss-P would have to once again return to the operating room.

When Miss-P awoke from her second round of surgeries she noticed something was wrong.  She had lost her coordination to all the muscles on the right side of her body.  Furthermore, she had trouble eating, her vision was blurry and she couldn’t write.  Miss-P couldn’t walk, run or jump much less play tennis.  Luckily, in Miss-P’s heart and brain, these predicaments and constraints had a curious side effect…  Miss-P challenged herself and she immediately went to work.  She wholeheartedly welcomed her rigorous therapy at the Children’s Hospital and she worked hard.   Yes, she did, even though the doctors warned her that her remarkable progress might eventually plateau.

It was not surprising to see Miss-P returning to the tennis court.  Except, things were much tougher this time around.  All of the fundamentals, techniques and tactics she had learned she would have to start to relearn, without the expectation that she would ever become a great tennis player.

She had hit rock bottom with her tennis when she tried out for her High School tennis team that year.  Pre-surgery she would have been one of the top singles players for the team, and now to her surprise and disappointment she was on the bottom tier playing mainly Junior Varsity.  This determination provided Miss-P the sour reality that her dream of playing college tennis was not in the cards.  She was devastated.

Miss-P even considered quitting her favorite sport for a while, taking prolonged breaks to try rowing, basketball, and other activities.  However, she couldn’t get away from the feeling that she was missing out on all that tennis had given to her.  She craved the day-to-day challenges and improvements where she was able to notice positive changes in her fitness and tennis skills.

Thankfully, Peyton has returned to the court where she now plays 4-5 days a week in the same challenging program with elite junior tennis players from Colorado and all around the world with that basic goal and expectation that she will improve each day, one day at a time, slowly, passionately… patiently.

Miss-P teaches us that this is not simply about tennis, but really it’s about all the lessons that tennis and any other competitive sport can teach us all in order to be highly successful in any endeavor.  I, with 100% conviction, believe that Peyton, due to her ambition, passion, resiliency, and phenomenal character will be one of tomorrow’s prolific leaders.  At HFAC, we say all the time to each and every student accepted into our program… you are whom you hang around, and we are tremendously honored to have the opportunity to be around Miss-P and such a wonderful community of students, parents, and coaches.

-Ryan Segelke (CEO of High Altitude Tennis, LLC)

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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.

#StudentSpotlight

We welcome Tuesday to share the best stories of our students with you.

We call them #StudentSpotlight . Stay tuned to know whose story we are going to share today.

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.