She holds the taped handle of her racket, twirling it with the ease of a child spinning a top.
Her grip tightens only after a frustrating point, but even then she loosely gravitates to the familiar motion, whooshing her strings through the air. The twirl is her reaction to the last point, relaxation between points, and preparation for the next point.
Kewpies junior Katie Glenn picked up the habit playing in a traveling tournament in the offseason, and many of her Kewpies teammates have picked up the tendency from her since.
“It’s just habit, I don’t even know I’m doing it,” Glenn said.
She didn’t think much of it until she noticed the others joining in.
“I didn’t realize it at first, but they watch,” Glenn said. “It’s not just tennis, but other things too.”
Hickman coach Jerry Price said: “Katie unquestionably sets an example for the rest of the team.”
Glenn is Hickman’s top singles player, a position she has enjoyed for the first time this season. Two years ago, she was a mid-level junior varsity player, but determined offseason workouts ascended her to the second flight last year, and a similar regimen nabbed this year’s first spot.
“I felt a little pressure, but mostly I just wanted to win as much as I could since it was my first time playing No. 1,” Glenn said. “I’ve had a lot of close matches and pulled out some good wins.”
Hickman (4/5-10/11) will face limited pressure this weekend, entering a district tournament that heavily favors Rock Bridge. The Kewpies have a 2/3-4/5 record against district foes, and are reluctant to set expectations.
“We’re trying to set no expectations, to come in with a blank slate,” Price said. “We’ll take every match as it comes.”
Glenn said: “I definitely don’t want to finish last.”
Individually, Glenn is aiming a bit higher.
“This whole year I’ve kind of made it a goal to go to state,” she said. “I know it’s going to be tough, but I want to do it.”
It would mark a definite improvement from where Glenn started a few years ago. She didn’t pick up a racket competitively until her freshman year, and then mostly because of her mother’s prodding.
“She wanted me to go out for the team, so I did and I really liked it,” Glenn said.
Barb Glenn is an assistant coach with Hickman, and the two now share a passion for the game. Barb Glenn said she saw the athleticism in her daughter, and wanted Glenn to use it.
Calling tennis not just a social sport, but also a good one that can last for life, Barb Glenn offers her own philosophy for improvement: “The bottom line with tennis is, the more balls you hit, the better you get.”
To get this repetition, Glenn began making trips to Kansas City to work out with Indian Creek Racquet Club pro Phil Baillos.
The offseason reinforcement provided invaluable knowledge about how to play the game, and how to improve her strokes, Glenn said. She also sought a more local tennis name for help, Missouri assistant Cecily Dubusker.
Price estimates that 95 percent of Glenn’s improvement is a direct result of her work in the offseason.
“She has more power, and power with better depth and placement,” Price said.
Glenn said she takes this part of her game seriously, and the extensive traveling for tournaments and clinics in the offseason can take a toll. When it comes time for the high school season, she said she enjoys the friendships as much as the tennis, though.
“It’s nice to have the camaraderie. It gives a break from the competitiveness,” Glenn said. “I have enjoyed working with the girls on the team. It’s a lot of fun going everyday because it doesn’t have to be serious. We can laugh together too.”