This week's Athlete of the Week is Auburn High's Anna Beth Presley, a senior on the Tigers' tennis team.
Auburn Villager: In general, how did you get your start playing tennis?
Anna Beth Presley: Well, my mom played in high school, and my dad didn't have tennis team at his high school but he kind of played because both of my grandfathers were really big into tennis, doing clubs and stuff like that. It's kind of a family thing I guess.
I learned when I was second or third grade, and then I actually playing for little while — I just did it for fun — because I played soccer instead. And when I came to Auburn from Trinity Christian private school, I started again in eighth grade, so I guess it's been five years. Ever since then, I've been on the team, so this is my third year on varsity. And coach (Hollis) Davis has been my coach all five years. She was the JV coach, and then the year that she moved up to varsity I did, too, so I've been with her every year.
AV: What do you enjoy most about playing tennis?
ABP: I like how it's got strategy in it. I mean, every sport has strategy, but I feel like with tennis there are a lot of details you can do and different ways you can play. I like that it's a team sport but also an individual sport, so you can have your own goals and ways you're trying to improve and you don't always have to rely on your teammates; but then for the whole match in general it's still a team sport and you can really work with everybody. It's a little bit of a mix, which is good.
AV: On the flipside, what is the most challenging aspect about playing tennis?
ABP: We talk about this a lot in practice. I think the mental side of it. Every sport, it's definitely a big mental thing, but with tennis it's really easy to get in your head. It's just a very mental sport, especially with your opponents. There are a lot of little things that go into it that make it a lot harder. I think part of it is that it's not a contact sport. When I played contact sports just for fun, we got really aggressive. And I'm super-aggressive in tennis, too, but it's easier to let yourself go a little bit when you're doing other stuff, but it's not like a contact thing and there's so many little ways to do your technique. It's a little bit harder, at least for me I think.
AV: Did you have any role models you emulated or looked up to?
ABP: I don't necessarily have just one in particular. I like to watch them all and get little bits and pieces because a lot of it is what feels best to you. If you watch tennis, there's some basics of technique and strokes and stuff like that. But a lot of the pros do random things that are totally different than what anybody else does. It's kind of cool you can add your own little spin on different things depending on what feels good and works for you. But, I guess the usuals, Serena (Williams) and people like that. I kind of like watching them all and getting a little bit from all of them.
AV: How is the season going so far?
ABP: We're actually having a really good season so far. We've got really good team. We played in a round-robin and a tournament last weekend, and actually won both of them, girls and boys, which is really exciting.
Speaking of the team, they would be among the other people that I look up to because even though I'm the oldest, there's a lot of really, really talented players that are with us. I try to be a leader most of the time since I'm the only senior on varsity, but we all contribute. And you can learn a lot of really good stuff just watching your teammates and playing with each other in practice.
AV: As a senior, do you know what you want to do yet after you graduate?
ABP: It's not super-tennis related, but I'm going to go to Auburn, and I'm majoring in neuroscience because I want to go to med school once I graduate. That's the plan as of right now.
AV: Do you have any hobbies outside of sports?
ABP: Yes. I have a lot of hobbies. If there's something you can be involved in, I've probably done it at some point. I'm in show choir in Varsity Singers. There's three different groups, but so I do that as well, which is sometimes very difficult because they conflict a lot and it's hard to do both. But I really enjoy it because I like music and listening to it and singing and dancing.
Interview by Brian Woodham