Full-time players, multi-sport athletes hit tennis courts
Eileen Dooley's basketball season is barely in the rearview mirror but the Lee senior is already swapping her shooting stroke for ground strokes.
"Me personally, my footwork's usually pretty good because I'm pretty quick from basketball and used to sliding," Dooley said. "For me, the biggest thing is the serve. It's an awkward way to swing your arm. My serve is the hardest thing for me."
Dooley is moving swiftly into tennis season, where teams combine mixes of players who hit the courts all year-round and others -- like Dooley -- who transition from other sports. Lee girls coach Jeff Forget said around a third of his 15 girls play tennis in the offseason.
It's the same in Williamstown where there's a handful of year-round players on Stephen Bryant's Mount Greylock boys roster. Bryant said he tries to run his pupils through as many drills as possible early in the season to help get timing back.
"You can get pretty rusty," Bryant said. "It could take several weeks until you get back to your peak performance. ... That's one of the big problems of starting tennis once you took such a long break, getting the timing of the ball back and your swing timing."
Forget said footwork, like timing, can take a little while to get down. Pittsfield boys coach John Clarno spends the early days of the season focusing on basic ground strokes.
"It's a challenge in that you have probably a minority of kids that have played indoor tennis over the winter," Forget said. "The majority of kids have not picked up a tennis racquet for some time. You have to adjust your practice plan to that reality."
The Mounties' Jonah Majumder is one of those players who hasn't gotten a ton of court time in the winter. The senior said he tries play a little, particularly after his Nordic ski season ends, but that can be difficult.
So these opening weeks are more a time for focusing on those strokes and getting the feel back. Majumder's counterparts that have been playing right along can hit the ground running.
"I think at the beginning of the season, they're less rusty," Majumder said. "There's a difference at the beginning of the season. They've had that chance to improve and practice more. At the beginning there's a little bit of a gap. ... I think it isn't really that noticeable once you get two weeks into the season. Maybe it takes a couple weeks, but there isn't any real serious disadvantage that lasts."
Two of the county's year-round players got a little taste of starting new this spring. Lee's Tanner DeVarennes, the defending All-Eagle MVP, and Pittsfield's Tom Cimini both suffered injuries and have just returned in the last month. Cimini said it's been frustrating, with almost every one of his shots taking a while to come back. He said the winter can be the most important time of the year to get ready for the high school season.
DeVarennes said he can see kids who are rusty early in the season get into a groove later in the year when their skills catch up. He's hoping for exactly that from the Wildcats, who have several athletes from other sports.
"I think by the end of the year we're going to be a dangerous team," he said.
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