By Mia ’25
Reflecting on the many amazing experiences I have had at Harvard-Westlake, one of the best decisions that I made was to try out for the tennis team. After years of dedication and practice, I was offered the opportunity to join Harvard-Westlake’s team as a seventh grader. As wonderful as my experience has been, I can still remember the nervous feeling I had on the first day of tryouts. Stepping off the bus and onto the UCLA tennis courts, my stomach was in knots, self-doubt crept in, and I began to question my decision to try out. As the week continued, slowly I regained my confidence, and on that fateful Friday, I was filled with pride as I read the invitation to join the black team for my first year of middle school.
That next week, I attended my first ever team practice and quickly befriended teammates, some in my year and others older. The coaches welcomed us with open arms and instilled even more confidence in each of us individually and as a team. Soon thereafter, we found ourselves whisked away in large, white Suburban SUVs that would bring us to our three-time-a-week practices and matches. As the season progressed, sharing that commute to practice and to games became one of my favorite parts of the day, made even more special by the success that our team was having against our competition. We finished the season victorious in the finals and first place in our league.
In my second year, the pandemic deprived us of the opportunity to repeat as champions. Our season was cancelled. As sad as I was, I was confident that the break was temporary and that I would soon have the opportunity to try out on a bigger stage as a freshman in high school.
When I learned that tryouts were confirmed this past August, I was reminded of the butterflies that I had experienced just a couple years prior. This time around though, I had learned how to better handle the stress and welcomed the opportunity to be back on the court doing what I love. I played in more matches than I can count as I tried to show our coaches that I had not lost the skills that landed me on the black team two years prior. Sweating through a heatwave in Los Angeles that week, I played every point like it was my last. In the end, I felt very good about my chances of getting one step closer to making the high school team. When I received the email telling me that I was selected to play on the JV team, I was beyond excited.
During my time on the team this past season, my bonds with teammates got even stronger. Some of my most cherished friendships are those that I have with my teammates. My tennis skills continue to improve as well, working with coaches on drills and exercises that have made me a better all-around player. As one of the youngest members of the team, in seventh grade and now in ninth, I have benefited from some amazing advice from my older peers. Their encouragement and suggestions will forever stay with me, even after the season ends.
In all, playing on the tennis team at Harvard-Westlake has been incredible. From the friendships I have made to the bonds I have formed with coaches, I could not be happier with my decision to be a part of this remarkable program. I will forever be grateful to my coaches and teammates for all they have done to make my time at Harvard-Westlake so meaningful and memorable.