Athlete reflects on season 


Harsitha Kalaiarasan

STATES. Recently, senior tennis player, Harsitha Kalaiarasan competed at the state level. Her senior season was filled with much reflection and less pressure than before, thus allowing her to play her best.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. The serve hurtles towards my forehand; in a bid to end the point quickly, I slam the ball into the net person. The ball makes contact with her racquet and lands long. Game, Set, Match. My partner, Mayu Fukuda and I had qualified for the OHSAA State Tennis Championships. 

Last Friday, Fukuda and I made our way to the State Championships in the hopes of advancing further. Sadly, we fell to a strong doubles team from Mayfield. But, what I cherished most about the state match was the road I traveled to get there.

I started playing tennis at the age of eight and found that I had an affinity for the sport. Before I knew it, I was all in. Practices six days of the week, USTA (United States Tennis Association) tournaments on the weekends. Summers were brutal with up to six hours of tennis and training a day. 

I played my freshman and sophomore season, qualifying for state both years. However, after my sophomore season, I was completely burned out. Playing singles was a solitary experience and laden with pressure every match. I stopped enjoying the sport. So I quit and promised myself that I would never pick up a racquet again. 

Them time off, though, was not what I expected. Having associated my identity with tennis,  I found myself confused as to who I was, and in a sense, purposeless. I had a really tough time finding things I enjoyed. So, I decided to start playing again—but on my terms. 

I found balance with how much I practiced and realized that tennis was something I did, not who I was. My senior season was extremely tough, but I never took it too seriously. Tennis became enjoyable and I permitted myself to loosen up. More than anything else I won this year, my love of tennis is the most important. 

My experience with tennis is a relatable one to people who play individual sports. There is no team to blame when things go wrong and no one to bear the mental burden with. The more you grow your talent, the opportunities abound. And to who much is given, much is expected. 

But, my advice to any other athlete is to take a break when they feel like they are about to burn out. Preserving your passion for the sport makes competition so much more enjoyable.