When asking many kids what they want to be when they grow up, they’ll tell you it’s their dream to be a professional athlete.
Whether their plans fall through, or they decide to chase a new dream, many won’t follow through with this aspiration of competing in a sport for a living. However, there are those who find their natural ability as an athlete at a young age, and work tirelessly to pursue that dream.
In essence, that describes Abbey Grace Venham and the game of tennis. For Venham, the freshman tennis standout at Eastside High, tennis is more than a sport.
“I love it enough to never get tired of it,” Venham said.
It’s a sport she’s invested her time and resources into since she was about seven years old, and a passion her family took notice of early on in her playing.
“She loves it enough to do homework and eat dinner in the car on the way back and forth every day,” her grandfather Bill Blair. “She’s a good little player, but she’s still developing,” he said. “She’s ranked in the state in the 14 and under class, which she’s about to turn 15, so she’s about to move up, and she’s already started playing in the 16-year old age bracket.”
The age difference means very little to Venham, who is all about competition and traveling to continue to improve her skills. She plays over 20 United States Tennis Association (USTA) matches a year traveling to places like Columbia, SC and Dothan, Ala. in a span of two weekends.
Even when she’s not on the court in a match, she finds herself spending even more time on it, trying to improve her tennis skills.
“She’s with a local coach two days a week, then she also goes to Beck Tennis Academy, and she’s playing on the weekends,” Blair said. “You have to put in the time.”
Time on the court is a given for Venham as she averages nearly two and a half hours a day working to polish her play.
Her talent and strong work ethic has translated to the local courts as well, which is seen through her high school dominance in her freshman year at Eastside, much to the pleasure of Eagles girls coach Angie Honey.
“I joke with her that she can only lose two games this season,” Honey said. “She’s a great asset to the team and we are very lucky to have her.”
Although Venham is competitive, she doesn’t let the competition get to her head.
“She sets the example to the team of what competition should look like in a friendly way,” Honey said. Honey also stated that her freshman phenom’s friendly demeanor shows the beginners the right way to carry oneself on the court as well as keeping emotions in during a match.
Venham knows how to set a positive example off the court as well.
Venham loves the Arts Association and was involved heavily in OYS before deciding to take a year off due to her extensive schedule, according to her mother, Angie Blair.
“She wants to try out for the basketball team, the volleyball team, and she wants to play golf,” Angie Blair said. “She wants to do it all.”
Doing it all is something she’s been accomplishing in tennis in recent years.
On top of her barrage of matches, practices, and tournaments, she has found herself training and throwing footballs with the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike), identical twins dubbed by many as the best doubles tandem in the history of tennis, and training with the numerous college and college coaches she’s encountered through the last few years.
No matter what it is, Vehnam has her mind set on doing everything she possibly can in the world of tennis. Despite all the practices, tournaments and constantly being on the go, Venham retains a smile on her face, even through the competitiveness that tennis brings out.
She is known to be one of the only girls at her USTA tournaments who will talk and make friends with everyone while nobody else really talk to each other.
“Tennis is competitive, especially with the girls,” said Angie Blair. “The parents and the athletes don’t talk, but Abbey will somehow know everyone there by the end of the tournament.”
Venham’s hard work, strong determination, and friendly demeanor are all attributes that she hopes will take her to the next level of competition. But no matter what the future holds, she seems bound to find success, thanks to her work ethic and desire to excel.
“I hopefully want to play for UGA,” Venham said. “That’s kind of tall order, but that would be so cool.”