COVINGTON, GA -- Eastside boys tennis player and rising senior Will Ebert picked up a racket late in his athletic career, but early enough to find his footing in the sport. The latest proof of this came when Ebert received his first tennis scholarship offer earlier this week.
Ebert's path to tennis included enduring the sting of disappointment that came when his plans for making the Eagles' baseball team all but fell through. It was then that Ebert thought he would try his hand at tennis.
So when the recent offer from Huntingdon College -- a private university in Montgomery, Alabama -- came, it was just about all the confirmation Ebert needed to let him know he'd chosen the right path.
As a sophomore, Ebert found that his proficiency in the sport was natural, and the pace at which he was learning and developing in the game was “better than many of the people around Newton County and surrounding counties.”
Such a realization didn’t make him complacent, but rather it incentivized the 17-year-old to train harder and test just how far he could take his newfound talents.
“The fall before my junior year I spent almost every day on a court," Ebert said. “When the season came around, I realized I had to step up if I wanted to lead the team since I was at first singles.”
In the first match of the 2019 season against Alcovy, Ebert was slated to lead off for the Eagles. He would go on to lose that first match 8-6.
Ebert himself feels that that was a match he believed he was favored in and should have won.
But in retrospect, the loss could've been a turning point for his progress as it sparked a realization that there was even still more work to be done on his game, as Ebert said the setback pushed him to take his intensity and preparation up another notch.
“After that match, I talked to coach [Nick] Adzema, and the next day at practice we switched my grip which is hard to do when you’ve been holding it a certain way for so long,” Ebert said. “He stayed with me for an hour and a half after that practice when everyone was gone, and he worked me to exhaustion.”
In his impressive rise to becoming one of the Eagles' top tennis standouts, Ebert acknowledges he couldn't have gotten to this point without Adzema's help, but also Eastside girls tennis phenom Abbey Grace Venham.
Venham, who just last spring led the girls' team to an undefeated regular season and Region 4-AAAA runner-up finish, has gone so far as to play Ebert “every single day after school until school let out” following the end of the 2019 season.
In a classic iron-sharpens-iron situation, Venham pushed Ebert to realize his potential and that maybe he was, in fact, ready for the next level.
“It was 100% a combination of Abbey Venham and my grandparents,” Ebert said. “They’ve all always believed in me no matter what and have shown me endless support.”
Venham, herself, performed well enough in a win during the Class AAAA state tournament's Sweet 16 round to get the attention of a Huntingdon coach.
With her offer secured, Venham, according to Ebert, expressed to him how fun she thought it would be for the two friends to compete together at the same school again.
Confident in his abilities, Ebert sent in his film – a video created with help from Venham -- to Huntingdon’s head tennis coach, Tony Franklin. Franklin’s response -- a scheduled visit to campus for Ebert.
Ebert visited the campus last Monday and noted that he liked what he saw, especially from Franklin, and he acknowledged that while there, he let himself dream a bit about what life could be like as a collegiate tennis player..
"I think that [coach Franklin] is what really stood out to me the most,” Ebert said. “To me, a lot of colleges are the same, and with a good coach anything’s possible. He was talking to me when we were walking around the campus about all of the new workouts he wants to do and his idea for the future team. I think he would be a really good coach.”