While most middle and high school sports take a hiatus in the summer, tennis is already in full swing.
In August, Midlothian head tennis coach Sam Wrinkle will begin his fifth year at the helm of the Panthers tennis teams.
Tennis is one of those all-year-around sports where the coaches highly encourage their players to continue to practice all through the summer, to take private and/or group lessons, attend hitting classes, and compete in tournaments as much as they can.
Wrinkle's coaching staff for 2019-20 has already been announced, too. It will include Brett Ratzlaff in his 10th year at MHS with the junior varsity, and Tony Le returning at Midlothian Heritage and Walnut Grove Middle School.
The sport of tennis is rapidly growing in Midlothian, the same way the population continues to explode, as hundreds of new homes and apartments are being built seemingly monthly.
"Our tennis program keeps on expanding," Wrinkle said during a recently held summer camp. "This summer we have 25 students in the kindergarten-through-5th-grade group, 40 in the middle school group, and 35 in the high school competitive class that is offered in the evenings".
As a special summer treat, Wrinkle brought in some college players to help him in the months of June, July and part of August.
Six player/coaches are assisting in various clinics and hitting classes, which benefits all the Midlothian student players who care to participate.
And in return, the college athletes have been blessed by being placed in "host homes" all around the city.
The following foreign collegiate players from the University of Western Alabama are Henrik Sinkko and Julius Kaverinen from Finland. Then there is Anton Lof is from Sweden. Jonathan Gilmore is an American on the roster of Southern Arkansas. Two American young ladies are part of the assistant college tennis player/coaches, as well.
Midlothian's own Claire Phillips is home from Ouachita Baptist University, and she is joined by Makayla Braun from Henderson State University. Both girls' universities are in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
The summer's first UTR tournament took place Friday and was held at multiple site locations across the city. There were participants from all four Midlothian schools, as well as kids from other places like Trophy Club, Mansfield, Waco and further.
These UTR contests are relatively new to the tennis world, and this new organization is trying to offer a better way of ranking players, as the United States Tennis Association been the standard prime protocol for the sport since it was founded in 1954.
According to its website, the term – UTR – is short for Universal Tennis Rating. The UTR is a number that provides a real and accurate measurement of skill level. A player's UTR is a number between 1.00 and 16.50, the website notes.
One match result is all it takes to receive a projected UTR. After approximately five matches, the rating becomes official. As matches are played and entered into the system, a player's UTR will increase or decrease over his/her time in participating in the sport of tennis. This also means that for the first time ever, UTR rates all players on a single 16-point scale, without regard to age, gender, nationality, or locale of a given match.
"In my opinion, this is much better than trying to move up the ladder based on the limited number of available USTA ZAT tournaments during each year," Ratzlaff said. "The kids should be able to advance by being more competitive, based on the number of games won in each match they play."
Wrinkle added, "We are looking forward to our new school season in August. We have our entire MHS varsity team returning, except for one single senior that recently graduated-out".
The 2018-2019 Panther team came in fourth place in District 14-5A and lost out in the bi-district playoffs to a strong Kaufman team. Wrinkle hopes to have a much-improved team this coming season.
Midlothian's next UTR event is set to be held at home on Friday, July 19. "The new MHS baseball, softball, and locker room facilities have already opened their doors," Wrinkle said. "The 10 new Panther tennis courts should be finished in the next couple of weeks. We are proud to hopefully hold the next UTR tournament at our brand-new home courts."