COVINGTON, Ga. — After making an appearance in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament last season, the Newton Rams boys tennis team is ready to get on the court and make more noise.
The Rams are now three games into the 2019 season and, like the girls team, are being led by a first-year coach in Victoria Lockhart.
Also like the girls, the boys have played Strong Rock Christian, Grayson and Archer so far. But that’s where the similarities between the more inexperienced Lady Rams and boys squad stop.
This year’s team consists of five returning players and two novices who are catching onto the game very quickly. Most of the returning players have been playing for multiple years, which the team as a whole says adds to their team chemistry and overall success.
“I feel that our chemistry has grown with age and the new teammates just add to the chemical, and now we’re explosive,” said senior Atkinson Andris.
Something else motivating the players is their new coach, who reported that she was “welcomed with open arms.”
“With our new coach I feel like we’re getting better everyday,” said junior Jean-Paul Antoine. “I’m actually really optimistic for [our next] match. [Coach Lockhart] made us look over what we did on the ride back from the last match so that we could improve in practice.”
The boys can all agree that Lockhart brings distinct differences to the team this year than last year’s coaches.
“Coach Lockhart is more hands,” Atkinson said. “Instead of telling us stuff, Coach Lockhart actually goes through it with us. She shows us procedures and if we mess up she gets in here and shows us what the problem is instead of making us guess it.”
Senior Roman Mayo agreed.
“Coach Lockhart makes us do much more team communicating than our old coaches would,” Mayo said. “Instead of just telling us to talk she enforces it. She brings a much stronger presence to the team.”
Having played tennis in college and in an adult league, Lockhart is confident in the way she is leading the team, even though it’s only her first year as coach.
“The boys work hard and they have good attitudes which makes my job much easier,” Lockhart said. “But as far as my coaching style goes, I’m very hands on. If we’re playing or doing drills I get out there and show them instead of expecting them to figure out how it’s supposed to be done. And I play with them all the time… though I beat them quite often.”
The team is currently working on getting to the ball, serving and aiming. Meanwhile, Lockhart is focused on instilling more confidence into the players.
“The guys have good experience and really good skills,”Lockhart said. “But their confidence in themselves is not where I would like it to be. I’ve been telling them that tennis is about 85 percent mental as in they have to have that confidence. We’re working on playing one point at a time, one game at a time and one set at a time.”
The team is working hard and fast at every practice in preparation for more difficult region matches and hopefully a further journey into state tournament competition.
“Competitor wise, we’re always looking out for Grayson and Archer,”Antoine said. “But we want to go farther into state. We always make state but we are hoping to go farther than the first match this year.”
The team is planning on following Lockhart’s direction very closely throughout the season. They can all agree that her guidance is what they need to achieve their goal.
“Coach Lockhart is enforcing a lot more rules on us and it’s helping us get better but it’s going to be skill and communication that take us through state,”Antoine said. “Those are going to be the keys to us getting us through and hopefully to winning state.”
Team camaraderie won’t hurt, either.
“This season we are starting to feel like one on the court,” Andris said. “And Coach Lockhart built that bond and helped us to be able to do that.”