Serving smiles: 8th grade tennis team members act as mentors


Photo credit: Rajita Patil

Maggie Collins (28′), Phoebe Miro (28′), Carolina Benabib(28′), Abigail Weiner (27′), Lucy Bohn (29′), Beyla Patil (27′), Penelope Cheng (28′), Jaya Srinivasan (28′) and Avery Panepinto (27′) pose together at Barington Park after playing a tennis match. The team will play one more match this season, with the possibility of later advancing to team and individual playoffs.

By Francie Wallack, Multimedia Editor

As the only sixth grader on Archer’s middle school purple tennis team, Lucy Bohn was worried that she would be treated differently than the older members. Shortly after the start of the season in March, she learned this to be untrue.

With 11 players total, the team is comprised of four eighth graders, six seventh graders and one sixth grader. To date, the team has played six schools total, winning three out of the six matches.

Co-captains Abigail Weiner (27′) and Beyla Patil (27′) are both singles players for the team. The two captains have been on the team since sixth grade, though their first season was remote due to COVID-19.

Patil said she enjoys being captain because she is able to mentor the younger girls, just like she has been mentored by the past captains. She said she has also seen her leadership skills grow.

“I think it’s helping my leadership roles a lot,” Patil said. “Last year, I was a seventh grader, so I was looking up to the eighth graders, and, now, they can look up to me, and they can ask me any questions.”

Patil said as co-captains, she and Weiner have many responsibilities.

“Usually we lead the warm up, and then if we’re playing a game or picking teams, then me and my other co-captain pick teams,” Patil said. “We also hold team lunches if we have a game.”

In addition to organizing and leading logistical details for the team, the eighth graders also give feedback to the younger players.

“We give a listening ear if the younger players have any questions,” Weiner said. “For example, if one of them comes up to me asking a question about their forehand… I’d be like, ‘just try brushing up on the ball a bit more,’ and I’ll see them really think about that during their matches.”

Bohn said she appreciates the advice she receives from both her coaches and older teammates

“The coaches tell us what we’re supposed to do, and they give us feedback on what to do during our games,” Bohn said. “But I feel like, because the eighth graders are players now, and they’re on the same team, they understand more of what it is to be a tennis player currently. Sometimes their advice sits with me a little bit more.”

Each year, the captains of the team come up with a bonding activity for the whole team to participate in. This year, the team decorated water bottles together one day after school.

“Coach Paula wanted me and the other captain to… leave the team with something,” Weiner said. “What I came up with was the idea where we all went into the courtyard on Friday last week, and we all decorated personal water bottles, so you can stay hydrated and have a custom water bottle for the tennis season.”

Over a weekend in April, the whole team played a round-robin-style tournament together where they played short matches, rotating partners and opponents frequently. Weiner said she enjoyed this opportunity to bond with her team.

“We all played doubles and with people we wouldn’t normally play with, which was fun, and then after we all had dinner,” Weiner said. “We kind of just went around talking about our favorite things and get to know you questions.”

Patil said she appreciates the new connections she has formed with her peers on the team.

“I think it builds a lot of community,” Patil said. “I didn’t know any of those seventh graders or sixth graders, and now I say hi to them in the halls.”

As the youngest member of the team, Bohn said she looks up to her eighth grade role models and captains and values their advice.

“I admire their persistence because sometimes, since I’m younger, I’m like, ‘this is really hard,’ and I just go a little easier instead of doing my best,” Bohn said. “They’re so focused and determined, and they set a really good example for the rest of us.”