Working through adversity can be tough, but it didn’t keep 17-year-old Nathan Turtledove from pursuing his dream of playing tennis.
The Leawood, Kan., resident woke up last Friday to find out he had just been named to the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Junior Leadership Team — and he couldn’t have been more excited.
The USTA Junior Leadership team recognizes junior tennis players “who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.”
After getting into tennis at the age of 8, Turtledove, who attends Pembroke Hill, knew that the sport was something in which he wanted a lifelong journey.
“I started playing tennis at the Oakwood Country Club,” Turtledove said. “Even in middle school, I loved tennis. In high school, I knew I didn’t want to leave it behind.”
As Turtledove entered his high school years, his work ethic helped him start on varsity from day one. Even when it is not tennis season, you can find him practicing year-round.
In 2017, the Pembroke Hill Raiders took home first place at state. Turtledove and his playing partner, Garrett Kincaid, took first at the district level in doubles and second in state doubles.
When the 2018 season rolled around, Turtledove had a challenge to work through. He had a stress fracture in his spine, and his doctors recommended some time out.
“The doctor wanted me to have a three-month recovery,” he said. “However, I sat out for seven weeks and came back slowly over the past few weeks.”
During the course of Turtledove's recovery, Pembroke Hill coach Justin Romick realized that even though he was injuried, he was still a key part to the team.
"It was tough — he was our number one player," Romick said. "Even though he was injuried, he was still involved in the team. He still went to practice, traveled with us to every match and still did his part on the team. He will be a big part during this postseason."
With both the team and individual competition at state approaching this weekend in Springfield, Mo., Turtledove revels in what he has already accomplished in the game.
“To me, tennis is not just a sport. It teaches life skills,” he said. “You’re able to see a different perspective, which makes you kind of change your outlook.”
Romick has noticed Turtledove's persistence from day one. From the moment that Romick and Turtledove met, he was proving himself to be a top competitor.
"He was so small as a freshman, he didn't even weigh 100 pounds, but he was beating guys that were twice his size," Romick said. "He made a plan and it was obvious he thought through all of his matches. People realized he was good."
Turtledove's ascension to the USTA Junior Leadership team comes as no surprise to Romick.
Turtledove also won the USTA's Heart of America award last year at 16. That award usually goes to individuals who have been in the field for years.
"His presence is known because he is so active," Romick said. "When he is involved in circuits and hosting, he is the first to volunteer. He has made himself an official and is very known everywhere."