In addition to 17 state titles in its history, the East tennis team consistently generates players that go on to compete in college. Seniors Jamie McDonald and Brooks Kendall will be the latest members of the team to join collegiate rosters.
When Jamie McDonald started high school, tennis was not his primary focus or the only sport he played. McDonald played soccer on C-team as an underclassman until dropping the sport so he could focus on tennis.
McDonald found that because of his smaller size, he would be able to compete at a higher level on the tennis court than in basketball and soccer, his previous activities.
“Because of the physical contact for a while, I couldn’t keep up,” he said. “Tennis was my kind of way of being able to excel.”
McDonald began to play at Overland Park Racquet Club daily and grew as a high school player. He was one of six East players to go to state in 2012 when East captured the state title and successfully defended the team championship in 2013.
Around this time, McDonald began to consider continuing tennis after high school.
“Sophomore or junior year, I kind of made it my goal,” McDonald said. “If I’m going to take this seriously, I might as well take it to the next level and play in college.”
Players looking to compete in college are the first to make contact with potential schools by email, describing their academic standing, what kind of school they are looking for, and future tournaments where a coach can see them play.
“You have to email them and try and individually keep in contact with all your coaches until you narrow it down,” McDonald said.
McDonald plans to play at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, a small school with a Division III tennis program. McDonald looked more for a specific type of school and student life than primarily a school’s tennis program.
“I didn’t base my college solely on tennis,” McDonald said. “It’s about 2,500 people which is obviously very small but it’s what I wanted.”
Kendall began tennis at age 12 after playing baseball for several years. He started at Milburn Country Club before moving to Kansas City United Tennis, when tennis quickly became a priority.
“Once I got to a bigger academy where it was taken more seriously, it took a lot of time, but it was well worth it,” Kendall said.
Kendall’s only goal entering high school was to focus on helping the team win state. During freshman year he started to think of himself as a college tennis prospect. He thinks skilled upper classmen teammates contributed to his own growth as a player.
“You were playing every day with really good people, and you don’t want to let them down so it kind of picks up your level of play every day,” Kendall said.
He looked forward to practicing with a team that included multiple college tennis recruits and practiced with higher level players in his academy outside of school.
Kendall practices from two and a half to four and a half hours a day during the school year and spends time in a gym after every practice. In order to have enough time for tennis and school work, he leaves school early, excluding sixth and seventh hour from his schedule.
Kendall considered a wide variety of schools when he started looking for a college to play tennis. Prior to a tournament in Florida, the summer before his senior year, he emailed 15 coaches to express interest in those schools and notify them where he would play.
“I didn’t want to cross out a lot of options,” Kendall said. “So I would send [emails] anywhere from really really good D-I programs to D-III schools.”
Kendall selected the University of Missouri — Kansas City because of its proximity to home and because he felt it gave him the best chance to help a team make the NCAA tournament. Kendall already knows some members of the team.
“My goal would be to contribute to the team as much as I can, really work hard because my freshman year, I’m going to have to prove myself to the rest of the team,” Kendall said.