“When I was in preschool, we took a field trip to the tennis center...and it just took off from there,” says Tyler Conrad, a senior at H.H. Dow High.
Tyler began playing tennis at the age of five, and his passion for the sport grew the more he played.
Talaya Schilb, Greater Midland’s Director of Tournaments and Events, was one of Tyler’s early coaches.
“Tyler was this little kid who at seven or eight kept saying, ‘I’m going to be a tennis pro, I’m going to be a tennis pro’”, Talaya says. “He started as this really rambunctious kid who told everybody else how to play and how to win.”
“But I’ve seen him grow past a kid who maybe struggled in the social setting into someone who is super well-liked by everyone. Everyone wants to play with Tyler and be on the court with him, and I think tennis had a huge part in that because tennis makes you mature. Tennis makes you grow up because you’re on the court all by yourself.”
For Tyler that maturing process came with a more balanced view of the sport’s role in his life. He admits that becoming a tennis professional was a “one-in-a-million chance”, but he’s not discouraged.
“Tennis has been a tool to further my education while also playing a sport that I love,” he says, and he recently signed a letter of intent with Hillsdale College, where intends to major in political economics and begin a pre-law program.
Talaya was there to watch him sign his letter of intent.
“To actually see him sign his college papers was so rewarding for me,” she says. “To see him realize his dream of playing college tennis was awesome.” While he views tennis as helping him towards a career path rather than a path of a professional athlete, Tyler still has athletic goals as well, hoping to become an All-American tennis player.
“It’s a sport you can play forever,” he says.
And although tennis is helping him move from a court into a courtroom instead of into Wimbledon, he sees tennis as something that gives people more just the chance at becoming a professional athlete.
“With tennis, you get out of it what you put into it,” he says. “If it becomes a serious passion for you, it can get you anywhere you want if you work hard enough.”
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