Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sheer and Savage Players: Edition 3

“There is a point in tennis, when I thrust aside as irrelevant all thoughts of point and games and sets, and am absorbed instead in the sheer and savage delight of swinging at a moving target.”
- Mark Rowlands, Tennis with Plato

1. unmixed with anything else
2. unqualified, utter
Synonyms: mere, simple, pure, unadulterated

1. fierce, ferocious, untamed
2. unpolished
3. wild and rugged
Synonyms: wild

1. a state of happiness
2. a foretaste of all things made right
Synonyms: rapture, bliss, delight

SHEER JOY: Seth Krabill

SAVAGE JOY: Kyle Miller

RESULT: Helped lead their team to a school record 18 wins in their senior season.

Let me start this post by saying that two people alone can't help a team set a school record for wins and winning percentage. But everyone's attitude helps. A good balance is particularly important. When it comes to the 2010, there was a great balance of sheer and savage joy on the team. Ben Mast and Russell Klassen, the two seniors I'm not featuring were probably the best at balancing it and showing sheer and savage joy at the right times. But Seth and Kyle were the ones who exemplified each characteristic. So the stories about them are great ones to show what sheer and savage joy means. Except of course, for the one story about Russell seeing how many times he could nail an opponent in the chest because my brother said he couldn't get more than 10. And Russell hit the opponents 11 times in the match. That's some savage tennis, but I don't know how joyful (at least for the opponents).

But as for sheer joy, that was Seth. It was what made him so difficult to rattle. If you can play with sheer joy, you will have the strongest mental game on the planet. The reason being is that fear of losing can only happen when your goal is to win. If your goal is to become "absorbed instead in the sheer and savage delight of swinging at a moving target," well then very little can rattle you except for a bad opponent who can't get the ball back to you. This was Seth. I remember in 2009 we played Churubusco and they had a team of complete beginners, except for their two seniors who they had placed together to form an All-District #1D team. They were great, and only lost twice all season. I asked Seth whether he'd like to just take a probable win at #2 singles or team up with our #3 player and try to take down the good doubles team. In less than a blink of an eye he said he'd rather play the better people because that would be more fun. 

Or if you ask Seth what his favorite high school match was, he'll site his senior year at the Merrillville tournament when he took on one of the top players in the state, Benjamin Kalisch of Valparaiso. Seth was undefeated going into the match and so was Kalisch. The match was 0-6, 0-3 when it got rained out (Seth losing) and Seth was upset. He was having so much fun hitting back and forth with a great opponent. It carried Seth to a 20-0 record that season.

The only thing that can be wrong with the sheer joy approach is how you get better. If you are enjoying just hitting the ball, there's not much incentive sometimes to go hard in practice or drills. Seth suffered from some of that, but that's also where the balance that I talked about with Daniel and Mikey is important. A team must have sheer delight, pure joy. But it also needs the unpolished passion, wild joy of someone who will be vocal. That was Kyle Miller.

Kyle would do anything he could to win as a team. Three years in a row he played with different doubles partners. Each year, he and his partner got better and better throughout the season. Why? Because he had the unpolished, rugged, and savage ability to talk to people. He challenged his doubles partners, he encouraged his doubles partner, he got pumped up over their good shots. And he challenged his teammates as well. I'll never forget the time Seth showed up late to practice and Kyle got all over him. Chasing him out into the parking lot to talk to him. It may have been a little misplaced passion, but it was passion. A passion to and a delight in the idea of all things made right.

There's the thing that made this team so successful, people who did the things with joy (like Seth) and people who passionately held everyone accountable to doing the right things (like Kyle). Each team needs players who will fill those roles:

1. A leader who silently leads with actions of joy.
2. A leader who vocally challenges and encourages with passion.

So who is that this year? We have a ton of players who may be able to play with sheer joy, who may be able to lead with their focus, action and energy. But who will lead us, encourage us, challenge us, be passionate with their words?

Sheer and Savage Series
1. Joel King and Michael Steury
2. Daniel Buschert and Mikey Kelly
3. Seth Krabill and Kyle Miller


  1. Kyle and I may have been strong examples of sheer and savage joy, along with many others on the team, but that was passed down to us by the upper classmen when we were still underclassmen on the JV team. Something I have never failed to see in Bethany tennis is the admiration of the team's leaders. Not only playing on Bethany's team, but being a part of the team, is an experience that will always stick with me. Striving to be as good as the upperclassmen, both in skill and as people. Then the underclassmen become so important for this. The underclassmen are the ones who keep pushing the varsity. Barreling right behind our varsity teams are our JV teams. The varsity has always known if they slack off they are being watched and chased by their teammates who would take their positions if they don't continue to get better.

    -Seth Krabill

    1. What a good point. There's a continual pushing of one another, a giving as I called it in the wrap up post. Thanks for the comment Seth!


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