There are a lot of defining moments in a young athlete’s life. And while facing one of the best players in the state is certainly a challenge, it’s not defining in this case because Anthony VanOyen will never be defined by a loss.
But it was important – an important step in the evolution of an outstanding young tennis player.
At last week’s Division 1 boys’ singles State Finals, VanOyen laced up those expensive shoes, grabbed his expensive racket and walked out onto the court ready to take an expensive lesson in the game of tennis. But it’s these lessons and moments that help really define who we are.
VanOyen, a Skyline sophomore, was facing Gabe Brown in a quarterfinal match. Brown, a senior from Troy Athens, came into the tournament ranked No. 1 and is a five-star recruit according to Tennis Recruiting Network. VanOyen was seeded eighth in the tournament of the top eight No. 1 singles players in the state.
“Gabe is an amazing player and I was proud of my result on Wednesday,” says VanOyen, who fell 6-4, 6-0. “I wish it could’ve gone better. Coming into the match I knew I needed to make something special happen. I watch March Madness every year and I knew it was possible, so I had to give myself a chance.
“But I learned a lot from playing against him. Playing him not only showed where I need to improve but what my strengths are and what I can use more work on moving forward.”
VanOyen summed up the experience with this ace. “It was a great experience, but I’m focused on moving forward. I know the job is not finished.”
The job began for VanOyen at a young age.
“I picked up my first racket when I was 7 years old,” he said. “I love sports and when I saw it being offered at our country club I was totally into it. I loved how active it was. I tried many sports and none of them were quite like it in that sense.”
He not only liked it, but excelled at it. VanOyen played two singles for Skyline last year as a freshman and finished with an 18-3 record. It was another one of those learning experiences.
“When I was told I was going to play two singles I went into it confidently and I knew if we were going to be successful I had to do my part,” he says. “I had been playing with many people who were older than me and better than me so I felt prepared to play.”
This year he also was prepared and had another outstanding season.
One of the keys to his success is not only his physical skills but his mental approach to the game. And it’s a part of his game he continues to work on.
“I want every point to go my way and when I set it up perfectly and I miss the put away shot it can get frustrating,” he says. “I try to remind myself to stay confident and especially in matches, I have to just move on because the next point is 20 seconds away.
“I try to approach each match in the same way. In matches I try to play my strengths to their weaknesses. I also come into every match confident no matter what the outcome is supposed to be.”
Anthony, the son of Natalie and John VanOyen, also plays baseball. But tennis is his go-to sport. He occasionally plays tournaments outside of high school mainly through USTA and UTR.
“I think they are a great opportunity to find out where I am currently and what I can improve,” he says. “Tournaments can be crucial for improvement because, unlike practice, they put you in pressure situations. You can create pressure situations in practice, however, they are not the same as being out there in a tournament.”
During the summer, VanOyen tries to hit as much as he can and work on his game. In the winter or indoor season, he practices three to four days a week.
“When indoor season comes you have to pay for court time so I try to make the most out of every practice and make sure the people I am hitting with are also,” he says.
VanOyen, who hopes to play in college, enjoys the team aspect of tennis and really enjoys being around his Skyline teammates.
“The team is so much fun,” he says. “They remind me to keep the game light hearted and not to take it too seriously. As a team we did great overall and were able to make states this year.”
Winner, dedication, hard work, confidence and having a plan is how you define Anthony VanOyen. And when he loses a match, it’s an experience he learns from so it doesn’t happen as often in the future.
WLAA Player Profile Photoshoot