Whelan Wields a Racquet of Sportsmanship as Future Valley Tennis Captain
Charlie Whelan himself admits that he is not the most athletic guy or type, yet when it comes to tennis, he certainly has proven himself wrong by being a courageous and high-character court competitor and leader.
The Valley boys’ tennis team junior first started the sport around 4 when using the game as a summer hobby. As the No. 3 singles player for the Warriors this spring, Charlie carved out a 6-6 record to aid Valley to six wins in 14 regular-season matchups and earn a spot in the draw for the Class S State Tournament. He also earned the adoration of his peers by taking home the Best Sportsmanship Award.
“I am not the most sporty guy, but I liked tennis because you really have to know what you are doing in order to be good at it. I also like how you have to be agile, but you do not have to have the best endurance,” says Charlie. “The whole team aspect has been a big key to my success with the sport. You play individually in a match, yet what you do contributes to the score towards the team winning, which motivates me.”
Valley Regional boys’ tennis Head Coach Callie Riggio regales with plentiful remarks of how Charlie earned the squad stewardship spot for 2024 with his consistent optimism, along with displaying reverence and respect towards his opponents and the game.
“Charlie has always been a fantastic teammate. This year, he won the award for Best Sportsmanship since he always demonstrated an overwhelming amount of positivity and dedication to being fair with his calls and his judgements,” says Riggio. “In addition to the award, he is going to be a co-captain next year for the 2024 season. Without a doubt, he definitely earned his captaincy by supporting his teammates, always staying motivated, and constantly improving his game. When we play other teams, the opposing coach always has positive remarks about Charlie. He never came to practice or a match without a smile on his face and a determined mindset. He is loved by everyone on the team and definitely a mentor to many.”
When it comes to his perennial positivity, Charlie knows that one can easily put themself in a deficit before the first point is played with a less-than-favorable outlook.
“I am not sure where my positive nature comes from; I have just always been an optimistic guy,” Charlie says. “But I have found being positive helpful, because there is no sense going into doing things with a negative attitude.”
That same mentality parlays its way into Charlie’s approach to interacting with his opposing players on the court–creating a friendly atmosphere to forge friendships beyond the baseline.
“I have always thought that tennis is always meant to be a gentleman’s sport and you are meant to be quiet and respectful out there,” says Charlie. “To me, it is important to be respectful of your opponents, because when both players are in a happy mood, they will play their best. The game is more fun when you are respectful towards one another.”
Charlie made the leap to singles action this past spring. While others may have trembled with a spotlight shifting to a solo lane, Charlie gravitated towards it and enjoys it since he doesn’t need to worry about a colleague shouldering any blame.
“As a freshman and sophomore, I played doubles for Valley,” says Charlie. “I honestly did not like sharing the pressure with someone else in doubles; I kind of felt guilty about it. In singles, it is up to me, and it is my fault if I lose, so I have to do everything in my ability to win and succeed.”
In speaking to the nod he earned as captain for the 2024 upcoming campaign, Charlie states that based on the progress the squad made with the pieces in play this spring–the sky’s the limit in terms of prospects and prognostications for the Warriors’ fortunes a year from now.
“I am very excited to be named captain for next year,” Charlie says. “I think we will do a good job; we will have a lot of new guys joining the team that will be coming in next year. I think we can do even better next year than how we did this season.”
As he speaks more in-depth to Valley’s opulent optimism towards 2024 after making the most out of this recent run, Charlie is contemplating continuing along the court beyond his senior season.
“It has never been a priority for me, but I am considering playing tennis in college,” Charlie says. “We are only losing one senior from this year’s team, and we will gain a lot of good players. With the team we had, we made lemonade out of lemons. We won a good amount of matches in the regular season and did well in Shorelines, so I feel we can only do better next season.”