With freshman Greta Stechschulte nationally ranked at 272 and freshman Bryson Langford closely behind at 281, people would expect the two tennis players would be at each others’ throats to beat one another to the higher ranking.
But it’s exactly the opposite.
Stechschulte and Langford are able to support each other instead of being competitive. The two tennis players both got involved with the sport at a young age, have parents with a background in tennis and have hopes to play college tennis.
However, the girls don’t solely continue with tennis because of their parents both having college-level experience in the sport. According to Thad Langford, Bryson’s father, her passion and love for the sport is what keeps them playing and fosters their success.
“While it is true that her mother and I had our own tennis journeys, we view this as Bryson forging her own unique path,” Thad said. “Our role as parents is to provide her the opportunity to establish her own goals and support her as she works to earn them.”
And although they are committed to their sport, they play for fun, not for rank.
“I don’t know my rankings right now, I’m not really concerned with them,” Stechschulte said. “I mainly only worry about getting into tournaments.”
Both of their careers began with basic training at Homestead Country Club when Langford was four and Stechschulte was five and they now frequently travel to Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska for tournaments. For occasional national tournaments, they travel to South Dakota, Georgia and Massachusetts.
According Langford and Stechschulte, getting to their current level required unwavering commitment and sacrifice from family, friends and school. Being able to perform consistently in back-to-back tournaments isn’t simply a matter of “effort.” There is a certain level of commitment to the girls are willing to put into the sport — spending four hours on the court six nights a week to improve, and sacrificing hanging out with their friends most days. According to Langford, she has the drive and dedication with help from her coach, Kevin Braun.
“We have always been more focused on her long-term development and goals. [Langford] has continued to be my hardest-working player both on and off the court,” Braun said. “The more she continues to believe in that hard work, the more she will continue to stand out as one of the better players not only in her age group but in the country.”
The girls have both individually received support from their parents and coaches, but it still took self-drive and motivation, according do Stechschulte, like practicing six days a week and attending weekly summer training to get to where they are today.
According to Stechschulte’s coach, Anthony Perkins, she has always been a talented player, but recently her focus has shifted more toward the tactical mindset of the game.
“She is starting to develop her tennis identity and understand what her own strengths and weaknesses are,” Perkins said.
Both girls aspire to play in college, and high school is getting them a step closer to achieving that goal. Langford and Stechschulte said high school provides them with a change in scenery and motivation to work toward the collegiate level.
This year, Langford and Stechschulte said they are excited to finally be in a setting where they can cheer on their fellow teammates — an experience they’ve never had until this year because tennis is typically played individually, if not with one other partner.
Both girls said they’ve been prepping their whole lives but predominantly in this past year – which will lead to further success in making a collegiate team, adding to their tennis journey. This includes weekly practices and participating in tournaments year-round to get noticed and eventually scouted by colleges.
Working to improve in tennis their whole lives has coincidentally led them to high rankings. And although their success should be recognized and not belittled, it’s refreshing to see the girls more concerned with the outcome later in life and where the sport can take them rather than a number on a ranking board.
“I’m really excited because it’s not too often I get the opportunity to be on a team and cheer people on,” Langford said. “That’s an atmosphere a lot of players like me are missing. So, I’m definitely super excited for high school tennis to be able to contribute to a team.”