Leavenworth alum Jesse Sherer will be inducted into the Washburn Athletic Hall of Fame on Nov. 10.
Leavenworth alum Jesse Sherer will be inducted into the Washburn Athletic Hall of Fame on Nov. 10. After a historic career for the Pioneers, where he earned three school records including the highest number of career wins, Sherer compiled a 72-29 singles record at Washburn over a four-year career. In doubles, he was 82-20 and took second in the NCAA Division II tournament as a senior in 1997.
1. To begin with, what did you like about tennis that inspired you to play so much as a kid? When did you decided to dedicate yourself to the sport?
As a young child, I lived next to David Brewer Park. When I first began playing I was involved in youth baseball, basketball, football and soccer. I found that tennis was nice because you only needed one other person to play as opposed to 21 other people for some of those sports.
I continued to play multiple sports until my freshman year in high school when I made the choice to focus on tennis. Part of this was due to my personal enjoyment of the game, but I also was having success and improving and felt I could possibly make it to college playing tennis.
The Rabe Tennis club also kept me playing as I enjoyed the banter and fun that went along with competing on the court. I also liked the fact that by rule there is no coaching in tennis allowed during match play. That sets up a situation where the player has to compete hard and analyze what is happening during match play making it more of a mental competition combined with the physical requirements of the sport than just a "the best athlete will prevail" type sport.
In tennis, you really must learn how to structure points to win them and be flexible enough to recognize that if "plan A" is working or not, you may have to change it up.
2. Besides recreational tournaments, how are you still involved with the sport?
I continue to try and stay involved in the tennis community. I compete in USTA leagues and I am trying to help my son develop an understanding of the game and what it takes to compete in tennis.
I still enjoy watching all levels of tennis from the 10-and-under beginners tournaments all the way to professional matches. The tennis channel is a wonderful thing where you can find match play nearly all the time.
An old friend and tennis professional is looking into starting a junior program in our community with me, but we will need to generate some money for the purpose of court renovation and equipment. We have discussed getting a tennis team started at our local school, but this will require some time and assistance from the community.
3. As far as sports go in today's society, tennis is not as popular as it once was in America. Why do you think that is and what can be done to correct it?
Unfortunately I agree with you that tennis seems to be on the decline in the American society.
This really is unfortunate as tennis really can be a sport that provides a lifetime of enjoyment and quality exercise. I think the fact that tennis is a skill sport limits the interest of some people. Tennis requires specific grips, techniques, and motor skills that are different and require some time to develop.
In addition to time, it also requires someone who understands those requirements and has the ability to pass the knowledge on. This in and of itself makes it less appealing to some as they do not see the immediate results they would like. Tennis requires dedication and practice and the better you want to be, the more time it takes.
In my humble opinion this does not match up with today's fast-food mentality. Everyone wants to be good and they want it right away. The other issue seems to be cost as like golf, tennis is seen as a rich person's sport in the mainstream.
The cost issue is being battled as the USTA has lots of beginner programs and youth tennis that is inexpensive. In fact, many materials are donated and funded by outside sources so cost to the individual is low. American tennis, however, may need that spark that gets it back into the mainstream.
This was provided in the past by people like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and none more than America's sweetheart Chris Everett. Like them or not, they competed at the highest levels and always seemed to be in contention to win at the majors to bring attention to our sport.
Unfortunately the casual observer usually only watches the four major tournaments, if that, so if you are not competing in those you are unknown. If we could get some players back to the top with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, that might generate more interest in the game.
Finally, I do like the current trend towards team tennis. There are many leagues at both the adult and junior levels focusing on making tennis a team sport. Some of the formats are quite fun to play; for example the World Team Tennis format is a lot of fun.
It allows substitutions at anytime, music is played during the matches and it is a more social environment. Although this is not the traditional method of playing, it takes a certain type of individual to travel by themselves to a tournament that is six hours from their home.
They pay $50 to enter and they may lose the first round and then have to turn around and drive home after only playing one match. Team tennis softens this blow as there are multiple matches and you are not by yourself. I do feel both routes have their plusses and minuses when you look at them from a player development perspective, but I feel that the team format may help generate more interest in the game.
If we can get people interested again, then we can develop the individual talents needed to compete.
4. Continuing with the same line of thinking, do you believe the sport will have a renaissance so to speak among the present sports world?
I hate to bail out on this question as I certainly hope the sport has a renaissance and comes back strong, but it is really hard to say.
I have some small experience with the new USTA 10 and under program and I believe that's a good start. The new program really attacks problems kids have with tennis by using a smaller court, balls that no matter how hard they are hit will only travel so fast and bounce so high. This keeps the ball in the hitting zone for small children, which any tennis pro will tell you was a huge problem.
The hardest thing about teaching youth at a young age is keeping the ball in the hitting zone so they could develop shots. This new program not only gives them this opportunity, but allows them to play points and develop problem-solving skills essential to playing high-level tennis. At younger ages, it's making the game more fun.
In a nutshell, the program is similar to when you lower the goal in basketball and use a smaller ball. This has been done in Europe for years and we are behind. If the program can gain momentum and we can get the youth interested in the game again, I would love to see our sport come back strong.
5. Finally a plea for some advice. For aspiring tennis players, what is a key tip you can give to youngsters to improve their game?
To aspiring tennis players out there I would say this — tennis takes heart. The game itself requires a lot of hours on the court, practicing specific skills and skill sets that are often times difficult to learn. Lots of beginning players think that it looks fun on TV, but when they get to the court they realize how hard it is to play like the pros. This is directly due to the fact that what pros do looks easy because they have the tennis skill set.
When you try it you realize how hard it really can be to effectively hit a little green ball into a designated area repeatedly while changing its direction and keeping control of the ball. On top of that, you are doing this while your opponent tries to make that task as hard as possible for you.
Nothing can replace practice time. Most people I see new to the game want to take a one-hour lesson with a professional and learn how to play. I am not saying this is bad, I have taken and given many lessons in my time. But what seems to be lost is this — for every hour of instruction you get on how to hit a shot, or how to play, you should be spending 20 hours on court practicing the skill.
Time on the court is beneficial and practice is a good thing, but remember contrary to popular opinion, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. In order to truly excel at anything you must have heart, you must work hard and you can't replace hours and hours of hitting the ball around with even the most qualified instructor.
Keep faith tennis players. Anyone with interest willing to sweat and work hard can learn to play this game at a high level, and more importantly, have fun doing it.
– Brent Lager