By Miles Wooldridge ’24
Few people can claim over thirty years of coaching experience, but Varsity Tennis’s Coach Eric Hicks is one of them. Coach Hicks first discovered tennis in 7th grade, but once he “caught the bug,” in his words, as a freshman, it was all tennis all the time.
“I think it helps that I’ve played to know what’s happening for people on the court,” Hicks said. “Singles is a lonely game… you’ve got a lot of time to think out there, and the thoughts are usually not good ones.”
Hicks utilizes a coaching method called “Pressure Tennis” to try to simulate the feeling of a real match. The idea is to play as many “mini-matches” in every practice as possible. Wins will result in playing a higher-ranked teammate, and losses result in playing a lower-ranked teammate. Regardless of the outcomes for individuals, all players will get more comfortable with the experience of winning and losing, so that they can focus more on the fundamentals of the tennis stroke without stressing about every single point.
“I think that what players don’t do enough of is work on the mental side of it,” Hicks said. “Players have to learn to be a little more humble… and I think when you have that humility… that helps you recognize what you need to do.”
One of Hicks’ players, Eric Li, has been playing since he was five. He is only a junior, but he’s already the highest-ranked player on the team. Eric has spent his whole life prior to Woodberry receiving private coaching, or sometimes coaching with a small group, but he prefers being on the team.
“I think Mr. Hicks balances the team and the individual really well,” Eric said. “Looking back on all my years playing tennis, I’ve usually been playing for myself, but ever since I came to Woodberry… I feel a sense of belonging to the team.”
Eric is currently producing a tennis instructional video for the team in his free time under the guidance of Coach Hicks. He hopes, through the video, he can not only help the team’s skills, but also help build team spirit, and leave a legacy after he graduates.
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