The Burnsville girls tennis team is having its best season in decades with a roster filled with multi-sport athletes.
Specialization? Not with this Blaze squad, which features hockey, basketball, lacrosse and softball players, along with golfers and even badminton.
"Kids should not play the same sport 12 months a year," Blaze girls tennis coach Ryan Haddorff said. "It's not healthy mentally or physically. Once a few multi-talented Burnsville athletes have played high school tennis, they shared their positive experience with their friends and teammates.
"Burnsville tennis now has the largest participation in its history," Haddorff added. "It's an exciting time to be part of the program."
The Blaze are winning too, climbing to No. 10 in the Class AA state rankings.
Burnsville is 13-3 overall (7-1 went into its South Suburban Conference) including a 5-2 win at Apple Valley Sept. 19, a 5-2 victory at Prior Lake Sept. 17 and a 7-0 win versus Eagan Sept. 16. The Blaze also earned a 7-0 win at Bloomington Jefferson Sept. 20 in a battle of Section 2AA foes.
Burnsville is at No. 5-ranked Lakeville South Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. A victory and the Blaze would earn share of the league title.
Burnsville ends the regular season Sept. 25 at home versus Benilde-St. Margaret's, a section foe, at 3:45 p.m.
"This team is filled with hard-working, multi-talented student athletes," Haddorff said. "The team's cumulative grade-point average is 3.93 and every player, varsity and junior varsity, plays multiple sports.
"Most of these girls played three to five sports when they were young and now they play two or three varsity sports," Haddorff added.
The Blaze's multi-sport varsity roster with their other sports includes:
- Senior Avery Sawchuk, hockey and golf
- Senior Hannah Handzija, badminton and lacrosse
- Junior Morgan Krumwiede, basketball and softball
- Junior Hannah Lake, basketball
- Junior Mara McMahon, basketball
- Junior Brooke Haddorff, basketball
- Junior Ruby Pozorski, lacrosse
- Junior Maria Widen, hockey and lacrosse
- Sophomore Sami Bowlby, hockey
- Ninth-grader Molly Halvorson, hockey and golf
- Eighth-grader Ashley King, basketball
- Eighth-grader Addie Bowlby, basketball
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, overall sports participation across the nation last year was 7,937,491, a decline of 43,395 from the year before.
More and more teenagers are limiting themselves to just one sport. Some start specialization as early as elementary school and there are potential detriments for that.
"The first is facing a greater risk of burnout," the NFSHSA reported. "Kids get bored when they have to do the same thing over and over again. Couple that repetition of the same activity with outside pressure placed on the athlete by adults, and it’s a perfect recipe for burnout. Burnout can be caused by many factors, but it ultimately occurs when athletes feel helpless about their ability to meet external [or internal] expectations.
"Another problem that we’re starting to see is more and more of overuse injuries. If tender, growing joints are subjected to the same movements and stress without rest and recovery, those joints are going to get hurt."
Haddorff has a no-cut program. An there's no pressure to just play tennis. He encourages his players to compete in as many sports as possible.
Bu that can work in reverse. Some athletes might feel pressure to play just one sport from a coach for fear of losing their varsity spot if they are not more dedicated to their main activity. That's also been a trend in recent years.
"We strongly encourage athletes from other sports to play high school tennis, even if they have no tennis experience," Haddorff said. "Tennis is fantastic cross-training for other sports. It emphasizes working hard and having fun at the same time.
"Our practices are designed to develop tennis skills in a positive, high-energy, movement-based environment with music playing the whole time," Haddorff added. "The girls embrace the culture and push each other to work hard. Once these talented athletes are having fun, working hard, and developing their tennis skills, we see tremendous improvement in their match play during the season."
In Burnsville's victory versus Eagan, the team won all seven matches in straight sets.
Singles wins to Haddorff at No. 1 (6-2, 6-3), Sami Bowlby at No. 2 (6-0, 6-0), McMahon at No. 3 (6-2, 6-0) and Addie Bowlby at No. 4 (6-0, 6-1). Winning in doubles were Krumwiede and Lake at No. 1 (6-4, 6-2), Pozorski and Widen at No. 2 (6-3, 6-1) and Sawchuk and King at No. 3 (7-6, 6-3).
Against Prior Lake, singles wins were by Sami Bowlby at No. 1 singles (3-6, 6-3, 6-0), Haddorff at No. 2 (6-4, 6-3) and Addie Bowlby at No. 4 (6-4, 6-3). Krumwiede and Lake won at No. 1 doubles (6-1, 6-4), and Pozorski and Widen rolled at No. 2 (6-1, 7-5).
Burnsville's singles wins against Apple Valley went to Haddorff at No. 1 (6-1, 3-0), Sami Bowlby at No. 2 (6-1, 6-2) and Addie Bowlby at No. 4 (6-1, 7-5). Doubles wins were by Krumwiede and Lake at No. 1 (3-6, 6-0, 6-3) and Sawchuk and King at No. 3 (6-2, 6-2).
Against Jefferson, Blaze had wins at singles from Sami Bowlby at No. 1 (3-6, 6-4, 15-13), Haddorff at No. 2 (6-2, 6-2), McMahon at No. 3 (6-2, 6-1) and Addie Bowlby at No. 4 (6-0, 6-1). Doubles wins went to Krumwiede and Lake at No. 1 (6-3, 6-2), Pozorski and Widen at No. 2 (6-7, 6-1, 10-7) and King and Sawchuk at No. 3 (6-1, 6-3).